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I. Jewish education is passed over in silence, or only 
incidentally referred to, in general educational litera- 
ture. Examples from Monroe, Cubberley and Boyd. 
II. The reasons for this attitude. III. Jewish educa- 
tion is entitled to a place in the general story of educa- 
tion. The length of its history. The school as the largest 
single factor in Jewish life. The achievements of Jewish 
education in Palestine in modern times. 




I. The Jewish school came into being as the result of a 
long process of gradual growth. There is no mention 
of the school in the Bible ; nor of regular formal educa- 
tion of children. Illustrations from the stones of biblical 
heroes. The practical training of the child. II. Formal 
education in the Bible. The Paradise story. The priests, 
elders and judges. The idea of teaching and learning in 
the modern sense first appeared with the emergence of 
literary prophecy. III. The circumstances leading up 
to the rise of the Synagogue. The priest and the prophet. 
The Babylonian captivity. The Synagogue as a school 
for adults ; and as a means of indirect education for 
children. The early teachers. The Hellenistic period. 
Schools for youths. The Roman wars. The rise of the 
publicly organised and publicly controlled elementary 
school. Three stages in the development of the school. 


I. Evidence for the existence of the elementary school 
outside Talrnudic literature. Direct evidence in Tal- 
mudic literature. The tradition about Joshua ben 
Gamala ; its interpretation as an historical outline of the 




development of elementary education. II. The current 
view on the rise of the elementary school. Illustration 
from Professor Klausner's " History." Criticism of the 
current view. III. Did " compulsory " and " uni- 
versal " education ever exist among the Jews? Evidence 
against it. The illiterate class. Schools were still un- 
common in the second century c.E. The idea of the 
father as the teacher was deeply rooted. The gradual 
shifting of the conception of education from the indi- 
vidual to the social plane. The lack of educational 
facilities in the third century C.E. The story of Rabbi 
Hanina and Rabbi Hiyya. Moral persuasion instead of 
legal compulsion. General elementary education was 
accomplished about the fourth century C.E. 


I. The legal position of the woman in early times. The 
father's power over his daughter. The husband's power 
over his wife. The woman's social position. The 
mother. Outstanding women in almost every walk of 
life. Conjugal affection. Illustrations from the Bible. 
The period of the second temple. Proverbs, chap. xxxi. 
Prominent women in fact and fiction. The education of 
girls in those times. II. The gradual deterioration of 
the woman's social position. Hellenistic influence. 
Ecclesiastes. The transformation of Jewish life after 
the Roman wars. Leadership of learning. Education 
closed to the woman. The social and religious life of the 
woman in Talmudic times. Illustrations from rabbinical 
literature. Woman in early Christianity. 



I. Hellenistic influence. Contrasts between the Jewish 
and the Spartan systems of education. Similarities be- 
tween the schools of Athens and of Palestine. The 
11 Greek " cities in Palestine. The Jewish communities 
in the Diaspora. Greek influence on the development 
of post-biblical Hebrew. The Palestinian Jews were 



acquainted with the Hellenistic school organisation. 
The pervasive influence of Hellenism. Dr. Boyd's 
view that the Jews " adopted the Hellenic institution of 
the school." This view is an overestimate of the case. 
The necessary conditions for the rise of formal education 
had existed in Palestine before the Hellenistic period. 
Hellenism was only a factor of secondary importance. 
II. The father's individual responsibility for the instruc- 
tion of his sons was the basic principle of Jewish educa- 
tion. The early school was a private and independent in- 
stitution. General control by the community. Fees. 
Distinction between higher education and elementary 
education. Free teaching of the " Oral Law." Fees 
in elementary education were not fixed. The gradual 
tightening of communal control. Yet ultimately the 
school remained a private venture. The effect of this 
system upon the education of the poor. Comparison 
with the Athenian school. 


I. How the elementary school was housed. The later 
Talmudic period. The earlier period. The Synagogue 
as ** the people's house." II. The equipment of the 
school. The pupils probably sat on the ground. The 
tablet and the stylus. The pointer. The strap. Com- 
parison with the Athenian school. The tradition about 
Rabbi Akiba. III. Books. The advantage of the Greek 
school over the Jewish. The Greek boy could make his 
own boolls from his teacher's dictation. This method 
was barred to the Jewish boy. The Bible was the only 
book available. The scarcity and costliness of books. 
Illustrations from the Talmud. The reverence for books. 
Portions of the Bible were made into special scrolls for 
the use of children. 


I. Pre-school training at home. The age of three was 
the starting-point for education. The entrance age to 
the school. The leaving age. Resemblance to Greek 
practice. II. School hours. Holidays. The long hours 
were due to the fact of individual teaching. III. The 
teacher's qualifications. Strict supervision by the re- 
ligious heads of the community. Communal control 
did not imply a comfortable living. The social status of 


the elementary teacher. The position in Greece and 
Rome. The different character of Jewish education. 
The distinction between higher and elementary educa- 
tion. The "sun" and the "stars." The elementary 
schoolmaster was usually accorded the last place among 
communal officers. 




I. The scope of studies in the Jewish school of the 
later Talmudic period. A comparison with the cur- 
riculum of the Hellenistic school. II. Secular subjects. 
The period before the Roman wars. Children were some- 
times sent to non-Jewish teachers. Jewish teachers bor- 
rowed from matter and methods of non-Jewish teachers. 
An example from the Talmudic method of disputation. 
III. An important tradition bearing on the question 
of secular subjects. Before the fall of the stale it was 
customary, among the upper classes, to teach children 
the Greek language and literature. After the destruc- 
tion of the second temple education became identified 
with the study of the Tor ah alone. 


I. Arithmetic was not included in the curriculum of the 
elementary school in the later Talmudic period ; nor was 
reading, as an independent subject of study, known in 
that school. II. Writing was not an uncommon art in 
Bible times and in the early post-biblical period. Evi- 
dence from the Bible and from early rabbinical litera- 
ture. In the later period, and especially in Babylonia, 
writing was uncommon. Evidence from the Talmud. 
Writing was of little practical use. It was not taught 
in the elementary school of later times. 


I. The close association of the school with the Syna- 
gogue. Scriptural readings in the Synagogue. The 
septennial, the triennial and the annual cycles. The 



lessons from the Prophets. The Hagiographa. The 
manner of reading. II. Bible studies in the school 
followed the order of the weekly readings in the Syna- 
gogue. Children were encouraged to read and translate 
in public. The Bible syllabus in earlier and in later 
times. A good knowledge of the Pentateuch was 
common among children in the later centuries of the 
Talmudic period. III. The practice of beginning in 
school with Leviticus. Suggested reasons for this prac- 
tice. The assumption that it originated before the fall 
of the state. Criticism of the current views. The origin 
must be sought in post-temple times. The practice was 
a means of securing a place on the curriculum for " the 
law of the priests " which had gone out of use. IV. 
The liturgy occupied a prominent place in the elementary 
school. The festivals. The " Haggadah " for Passover 
as a textbook. The " Shema." The " Hallel" and 
the " Grace." Benedictions. The difficulty of acquir- 
ing a correct knowledge of the liturgy owing to- its fluid 
form. Children were expected to have a good know- 
ledge of it. The story of the sage and the schoolboy. 
V. In the earlier period elementary education did not 
go beyond the " Written Law, " Later the " Oral Law " 
began to gain in importance at the expense of the Bible. 
The difference in this respect between Palestine and 
Babylonia. Palestinian scholars devoted more attention 
to the Scriptures to be able to meet the attacks of Chris- 
tian controversialists. Scholars who taught the Mishnah 
to their own sons. The elementary school , as a rule, did 
not teach the " Oral Law." The teaching of swim- 
ming ; an echo of Athenian practice. The school's active 
part in the development of religious life. 



I. Rabbinical educational theory. Jewish educational 
thought approaches nearer to Herbartianism than to 
other systems. The aim of education ; and the means. 
Illustrations. The place of the teacher. II. Differences 
between the two systems. Herbart's system was essen- 



tially individualistic. In Jewish education in post- 
temple times the social aim predominated. Illustra- 
tions from rabbinical literature. III. Rabbinical 
psychology. Comparison with Herbart's system. The 
young child. Adolescence. The " evil inclination " and 
the "good inclination." The emergence of the latter 
during the period of adolescence. Substantial agree- 
ment of rabbinical views with those of modern writers. 
Hall, Slaughter and Wheeler on adolescence. IV. The 
application of rabbinical psychology. A further compari- 
son with Herbart. The emphasis put by the Jewish 
teachers on practical religious training. Intelligence 
tests. The two main forces which combined to shape 
Jewish educational thought. 


I. Memory in modern educational theory. The change 
of attitude towards the problem of the learning process ; 
a result of the development of psychological theory and 
of the great expansion of knowledge. The change in 
the direction of educational aims from the past to the 
future ; the shifting of prominence from the conservative 
to the creative aim in education. II. Jewish education 
in ancient times was mainly concerned with the past. 
Illustrations from the Talmud. III. Political condi- 
tions forced the people to seek a refuge in the past from 
a difficult present. The memories of the past were kept 
alive by a system of ritual and ceremonial. The school's 
contribution to the development of this system. " Pure " 
memory and " rote " memory. Quintilian's views on 
memory. Jewish teachers were aware of the value of 
logical order and system. Yet Talmudic literature ex- 
hibits a "woeful lack of systematic arrangement." 
IV. The fundamental fact : Jewish education in Tal- 
mudic times was largely a bookless system. The studies 
in the high school were carried on without the use of 
written texts. The anxiety for preserving the sacred 
literature. The dependence upon the teacher. The posi- 
tion in the elementary school. The absence of a 
vowel system. V. The Bible identifies the heart with 
the seat of intellectual powers. Comparison with 
Plato and Aristotle. Illustrations from the Bible. The 
Talmudic view of memory. Superstitions about memory. 
Astonishing feats of memory. 




L The method of study for the " Oral Law." The 
chief concern was the acquisition of the subject-matter. 
The method of higher education was also used for the 
instruction of children. An instructive Talmudic dispute. 
A comparison with the methods of the classical Greek 
school. II. The Talmudic method compared with that 
of Pestalozzi. Modern views on the subject. The Tal- 
mudic method more justified for the Bible than for other 
subjects of study. The determining factor in the selec- 
tion of material was not the present interest of the child, 
but that of the adult community. III. Memorisation 
was secured chiefly by means of repetition. The number 
of repetitions. Plato, Aristotle and Quintilian on 
memory in childhood. Modern opinion on this subject. 
The Talmudic view. 


I. Methods of memorisation. Brevity. " Multiple stimu- 
lation." The " whole " and the " part " methods. The 
length of the lesson in higher education ; in the elemen- 
tary school. "Tell me your verse." II. Aids to memory. 
Mnemonics arbitrary and significant. Reading aloud. 
Silent reading was discouraged. Modern views on silent 
reading. Quintilian's view. Illustrations from rab- 
binical literature on reading aloud. III. " Chanting " 
the Bible lesson. Biblical " accents." Cantillation. 
Different chants for the various books of the Bible. In- 
strumental music was not taught in the Jewish ele- 
mentary school. The Greek practice. Superiority of 
the Greek and Jewish methods over modern practice. 
IV. Interest. Rav's rule. Illustration from Maimon- 


I. Monroe on the teaching of reading in the Greek 
school. The peculiar difficulties of Hebrew. Illustration 
from the Talmud. II. The teaching of the alphabet. 
The alphabet as material for moral and religious in- 
struction. III. The next step after the alphabet. 
Three methods of teaching reading the alphabetic, the 
synthetic and the analytic. Neither of these was avail- 
able to the Jewish teacher of Talmudic times. Dr. Ken- 



nedy's view on the teaching of reading in the early Jewish 
elementary school. Criticism. The only method possible 
in the circumstances. IV. The suitability of some form 
of this method for the modern Hebrew school. V. The 
possible contribution of the Talmudic elementary school 
to the development of the Hebrew vowel system. Pinsker 
and Weiss on this subject. Illustration from the Midrash. 


I. Translation as a method of language instruction 
originated in the early Jewish school. The Jewish 
method of translation of the present day has behind it 
a tradition of twenty-five hundred years. II. The 
method of translation in the early school was similar 
to that of the Synagogue. Translation in the Synagogue 
was not a complete rendering, but rather an explana- 
tion. Reasons for this practice. The translation was 
recited from memory and not from a written text. 
Reasons for this. The unit for translation was one or 
more whole verses. The method compared with modern 
practice. III. The deterioration of the method of trans- 
lation in post-Talmudic ages. Modern controversies 
about methods of language teaching. The objections to 
translation are less applicable to the ancient Jewish than 
to the more modern forms of the method. 


I. Comenius on discipline. Quotation from the " Ethics 
of the Fathers." A picture of the Talmudic elementary 
school. II. Severe discipline was rendered necessary 
by the form of the organisation. Another cause of the 
severity of discipline was the '* spirit of the times.' 1 
Theories of punishment in the Bible. III. Ideas on 
punishment in Talmudic times. Comparison with the 
Hellenistic school. The manner of flogging. Children's 
reactions to flogging. The offence of " talking." Flog- 
ging as a stimulus to intellectual effort. Pupils were 
expected to perform little offices for their teachers. The 
story of the boy Samuel. Severity of chastisement. Illus- 
trations from the Talmud. Rewards. The story of the 
saintly teacher. 





I. Introductory. Bertholet on trades and callings 
amongst the ancient Hebrews. Criticism. The Bible 
on the skilled craftsman ; and on the toiler in general. 
The equation of " knowledge " with " virtue " was un- 
known to the Bible. II. The conception of "pure" 
knowledge as an ideal could only arise in a society like 
that of Greece. Illustrations from Plutarch and others. 
The separation between a liberal and a professional edu- 
cation. III. Ben-Sira on " knowing and doing." A 
Hebrew variation on a popular Greek theme. Suggested 
sources of Ben-Sira 's inspiration. IV. A strong re- 
action against Ben-Sira ? s views in later times. Jewish 
scholars usually followed some trade. The story of 
Rabbi Joshua. 


TIMES 192 

I. Talmudic eulogies of labour. The difference between 
the legal and the homiletical types of literature. Illus- 
trations from the Talmud. II. Discords in the chorus of 
praise. Reasons for these. Further illustrations from 
rabbinical literature. Some Hellenistic influences. III. 
Hereditary trades. The learning of a trade was an 
essential part of a boy's education. Not all trades were 
equally favoured. Agriculture and commerce. 



I. The position of the child in Bible times. Parental 
love. The child as a gift from God. Children's names. 
Preference for the son. The daughter was not an un- 
welcome member of the family. II. " Exposing " was 



not common among Jews. Child sacrifice. Other forms 
of infanticide. The danger to childhood from tribal war- 
fare. III. In the earlier times the child was the pro- 
perty of his father. Illustrations from the Bible. The 
family as the social unit. The prophets and the idea of 
individual moral responsibility. Job and Ecclesiastes. 
The conception of the free personality in post-temple 
times. Infanticide was destroyed largely through the 
spread of the Jewish view on the sanctity of life. IV. 
The fundamental difference between the Jews and the 
Greeks in their social ideals and in their attitude to the 
child. To the Greek thinker the man was lost in the 
citizen. Among the Jews individuality was never lost 
sight of. Talmudic teachers on the relation of the indi- 
vidual to the community. 


I. Ben-Sira's views on the treatment of the child. The 
views of Proverbs and other biblical books. II. The 
new attitude in the Talmud. Children's toys and games. 
The influence of religious ceremonial and symbolism, 
III. Yet the regime at home was often of a stern 
nature. Frequent punishments. Illustrations from 
rabbinical literature. Flogging as a '* preventive " 
measure. Similar incidents among other peoples. The 
relations between parents and children. * 4 Fear " and 
" honour " of parents. 



I. Religion was co-extensive with life. The child's 
first years at home. " Outward " signs. Symbols de- 
signed to arouse the child's curiosity. II. The festivals. 
The Sabbath Pentecost N-cw Year the Day of Atone- 
mentTabernacles Passover. III. The school and the 
Synagogue. The community's interest in the boy's edu- 
cation, '* Tell me your verse," 


NOTES 247 




Literally, " Man of the Land." Talmudic term signifying an 
ignorant, untutored person. 

Assyrian Alphabet. 

Talmudic name for the present form of the Hebrew alphabet. 
So called because it was supposedly introduced by the returning 
Babylonian captives after 536 B.C.E. It superseded the old Phoeni- 
cian alphabet. 


Leader of Palestinian Jewry in their final struggle for freedom 
against the Romans. Killed at Bethar 135 C.E. 

Bar Mizvah. 

Literally, " Son of the Commandment." Term applied to a 
Jewish boy on attaining the age of thirteen. At Barmizvah he 
becomes responsible for the fulfilment of every Mizvah or Com- 
mandment of the Torah. 


Before Current Era. Initials employed by orthodox Jewish 
custom to signify years B.C. 


(Ecclesiasticus.) Author of the apocryphal work " The Wisdom 
of Ben-Sira." Probably lived just before the Maccabean Era. 


Current Era. Initials employed by orthodox Jews to signify 
years A.D. 


Thirteen articles by the Jewish faith formulated by Moses 
Maimonides (q^-}- 
Ethics of the Fathers. 

A small tractate in Seder Nezikin containing ethical and moral 
aphorisms of the rabbis. Contains six chapters, of which the last 
is probably a post-Talmudic addition. 



Day of Atonement. The climax of the Jewish penitential season 
which begins on the New Year. Occurs on the loth day of Tishri 
and is kept as a Fast day. 

New Year. The first two days of the seventh month (Tishri) are 
known as the " New Year." The term is Talmudic. The Bible 
only refers to the custom of blowing the Shofar. 

Passover. First of the Three Pilgrim Feasts. Celebrates the 
miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage ; is 
also Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

Cj. Exodus xii. 1-51; Exodus xiii. 3-10; Exodus xiiL 14-19; 
Lev. xxiii. 4-14 ; Num. xxviii. 16-25 ; Deut. xvi. i-S. 

Pentecost (Feast of Weeks). Second of the Three Pilgrim Feasts. 
Occurs exactly fifty days after the first day of Passover. Tradi- 
tionally the anniversary of Sinaitic revelation. Also the biblical 
Harvest and First Fruit Festival. 

Cf. Exodus xxxiv. 22; Lev. xxiii. 15-21; Num. xxviii. 26-31; 
Deut. xvi. 9-12. 

Tabernacles. Third of the Three Pilgrim Feasts. The late 
harvest festival. On it Jews commemorate their desert wander- 
ings by building booths and dwelling in them. Cf. Lev. xxiii. 39-43. 

Maccabeans (Hasmoneans). 

Term applied to the family and descendants of Mattathias (died 
166 B.C.E.), a Hasmonean priest who initiated the Jewish revolt 
against Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian Emperor. His most 
famous son and successor was Judah Maccabeus. Hence the name. 


Most famous of Jewish philosophers and codifiers. Wrote " Guide 
to the Perplexed " (a consideration of Judaism and Aristotelian 
philosophy) and " Mishneh Torah " (a codification of the whole 
body of Jewish Law). Born 1135 at Cordova, Spain; died 1205 at 
Cairo, Egypt. 


Term applied to the biblical books, Canticles, Ruth, Lamenta- 
tions, Ecclesiastes and Esther, which are publicly read on Pass- 
over, Pentecost, Fast of Ab, Tabernacles and Purim respectively. 


Name given to the hermeneutical process whereby the Law was 
expounded. Such expositions legalistic, homiletical and folk-* 
loristic later coalesced into a body of literature called Midrash* 



The codification of the " Oral Law " (q.-v.) made by Judah the 
Prince at the end of the second century C.E. 

Mishnaic Period. 

The period of the development of the " Oral Law." At its widest 
limits it extends from Ezra, 457 B.C.E., till Judah the Prince, c. 
200 C.E. 

" Oral Law." 

That body of law which grew up side by side with the written 
law (Pentateuch) and which was formulated and transmitted orally. 


Jewish religious and political party which grew up in Palestine 
in time of second temple. So called from Lev. xx. 26. Insisted 
on Jewish " separateness " (Heb. PaRaS) and consecration. 
Pharisaism subsequently became synonymous with traditional or 
Rabbinic Judaism. Hence the additional derivation from PaRaS, 
to develop or interpret the Torah. 

Philo (Juda&us). 

Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, Egypt. Born c. 20-10 B.C.E. 
Most important representative of Hellenistic Judaism. 


RAbbi SHlomo ben Isaac ; b. 1040, died 1105. Best-known Jewish 
commentator on Bible and Talmud. His commentary is printed on 
the inner margin of most editions of the Babylonian Talmud. 


Jewish religious and political party in Palestine in time of second 
temple. Formed originally as an aristocratic or priestly party 
(after Zadok a priestly family name), they became the conservative 
party, opposing the innovations in and interpretations of Jewish 
Law made by the Pharisees. 


Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21; and Num. xv. 37-41. 

These three paragraphs are named after the first word in the 
Hebrew text and are the declaration of faith recited by Jews in the 
morning and evening prayers. 


From Hebrew root SPHR. A man who wrote scrolls of the law 
and/ or one who taught the Book of the Law (SePHeR Torah). 



Supreme Jewish Legal and Religious Council. Existed in Tal- 
mudic times. Its president was called the Nassi or Prince. 


Literally, "learning" or "knowledge"; indicates the work 
comprising the Mishnah (q.v.) plus the commentary on and ex- 
position of the Mishnah known as the GeMaRa. Redacted 499 C.E. 

Talmudic Period. 

Properly the Mishnaic period plus the period from 200 C.E. till 
499 C.E., but sometimes refers to the latter period only. See Appen- 
dix II. 


The renderings of Scripture into Aramaic, of which the most 
famous are those of Onkelos and of Jonathan b. Uzziel. 


Originally "The Five Books of Moses," but later the word was 
extended to include the whole of Jewish Law and Tradition. 



I. Jewish education is passed over In silence, or only incident- 
ally referred to, in general educational literature. Examples 
from Monroe, Cubberley and Boyd. II. The reasons for this 
attitude. III. Jewish education is entitled to a place in the 
general story of education. The length of its history. The 
school as the largest single factor in Jewish life. The achieve- 
ments of Jewish education in Palestine in modern times. 

THIS work is an effort at a systematic and critical study of 
the classical period in Jewish education. In it an attempt 
will be made to describe the form and content of the early 
Jewish school and its social and religious backgound. At 
the same time it will be shown that Jewish education did 
not develop in isolation from the general movement of 
educational thought and practice; but that its growth was 
affected by other systems, which, in their turn, were in- 
fluenced by Jewish thought, even though indirectly. 

The author realises the difficulty of the task he set him- 
self, inasmuch as until now general educational literature 
has either entirely passed over in silence, or only incident- 
ally referred to, Jewish education. Thus, for example, we 
find that Monroe's "Text-book in the History of Educa- 
tion" devotes 160 out of 760 pages to Greek and Roman 
education; 33 to Chinese education, which is regarded as 
typical of Oriental education in general ; but not one line to 
either ancient or modern Jewish education. 1 

The two companion volumes by Cubberley contain 
between them over 1,500 pages, covering the whole range 
of the history of education from the days of ancient Greece 
down to most recent times. But the author does not con- 



sider it necessary to give more than two pages to the his- 
tory, religion and education of the Jews combined; and 
one other page to a collection of maxims from the Talmud. 
Even these scraps are obviously included not for their own 
sake, but by way of preliminary to the study of early 
Christian education. 2 

To take a final example, Dr. Boyd's " History of Western 
Education" contains a short chapter of ten pages on 
Jewish education. The Jewish school is regarded as merely 
an aspect of Greek education and is denied any claim to 
originality. Yet in spite of, or perhaps rather because of 
that, these few pages are amongst the most suggestive and 
stimulating to be found on the subject in general literature. 
It is, however, " a drop out of a bucket," which only serves 
to whet the appetite of the student. The reason for this 
treatment is not far to seek, for here, too, Jewish education 
is taken note of not because of any intrinsic merit it may 
possess, but mainly on account of "the influence of the 
Old Testament upon our ideas on the upbringing of chil- 
dren." 3 

This is typical of the attitude of historians in general. 
Jewish education, like Persian or Babylonian education, is 
regarded as a thing of the past. It may arouse a mild form 
of purely historic interest; at best it may throw some light 
on the development of early Christian education. It has 
little or nothing to teach the modern student. 


The author dares to express the hope that the following 
chapters may lead to some modification of attitude towards 
the Jewish school system. For the time being it will be 
sufficient to make a few preliminary remarks. The fact 
that Jewish education has so far received no attention is 
not by itself sufficient proof that it deserves none* Thex*e 


are many reasons to explain why it is generally passed over 
in silence. The most important of these is of a purely 
technical nature. The material on the origin and early 
history of the Jewish school is scattered throughout the 
vast and not easily accessible rabbinical literature. 

Again, in later ages Jewish education, like the com- 
munity that brought it into being, lost its territorial, if 
not its spiritual, unity, and it became impossible to trace 
the history of the school without at the same time follow- 
ing the fortunes of the people in their almost endless 
wanderings. There is little wonder that historians shrank 
from such a task. 

Another reason may be found in the curious fact that 
the Jews themselves showed very little interest in the his- 
tory of their school an institution which they never tired 
of eulogising. As a well-known scholar somewhat naively 
puts it: The Jews were so much preoccupied with the 
actual business of education that they found no time to* 
write about it. The Talmud itself, in spite of the fact that 
it has something to tell us about every conceivable thing 
no matter how trifling it might appear, does not contain 
one complete page entirely devoted to education, its his- 
tory, organisation, or methods. And at the present time 
we are still waiting for a history of Jewish education which 
should satisfy the demands of the modern student used to 
scientific methods. These circumstances alone seem quite 
sufficient to explain, and to a large extent even to excuse, 
the scanty attention given to the subject in general educa- 
tional literature. 


However, the extent of its history should by itself entitle 
the Jewish school to a place in the story of education. It 
has a longer record of continuous existence than any school 
in Europe probably in the world. Beginning somewhere 


in the sixth century B.C.K, it has continued without a break 
down to the present day. It was the contemporary of the 
Greek, and saw the rise and decline of the Roman school. 
For a considerable period, from the fourth to the eighth 
century C.E., it was the only regularly functioning educa- 
tional institution in a practically school-less world. It lived 
through the movements of the Renaissance and the Re- 
formation, and was deeply affected by the educational 
developments brought about by the Industrial Revolution 
and the consequent democratisation of society. 

Nor are the achievements of Jewish education of a negli- 
gible order. If formal education, or the school, may be 
described as the chief means by which a people seeks to 
preserve and advance its collective life, then the work of 
the Jewish school is wellnigh unique. 

The survival of the Jew under conditions of unparalleled 
adversity is a riddle to some, a miracle to others. It is in 
reality neither. It is mainly the result of a successful 
system of education, extraordinarily adequate alike for the 
needs of the individual as of the community. Religion, 
economics, politics all played their part in the story of the 
Jew, but we shall never get to the heart of that story unless 
we realise that the school was the largest single factor in 
Jewish life, equal in importance to all the rest combined. 
In the absence of the usual attributes of national life 
political independence, territorial segregation, even com- 
munity of language education became the focus of all 
the vital powers of the people, supplying the content as 
well as the form for its collective life. And it accom- 
plished its task with a success to which history knows few 
parallels. Judaism in the widest sense religion, the Bible 
and post-biblical literature, the Jewish way of life all owe 
their preservation ultimately to the work of the school 

Nor is it all a story of the past. The remarkable achieve- 
ments of Jewish education in Palestine during the past 


half-century show that it has not yet lost either its vitality 
or its creative energy. It is one of the most daring and 
successful experiments in the history of education. Fifty 
years ago, although it was still a literary medium for edu- 
cated Jews, Hehrew was nowhere a spoken language. 
There was not a man in the whole world who considered 
it his vernacular; there was not a teacher who knew how 
to use it for the teaching of a simple sum in arithmetic. 
Today it is the spoken language of the Jewish population 
in Palestine. There are many thousands of the young 
generation to whom it is the only medium of expression. 
It is, besides, along with English and Arabic, one of the 
recognised official languages of the country, Before our 
own eyes there has taken place the resurrection of a lan- 
guage and a literature and the development of a school 
system from the kindergarten to the university. It would 
be a mistake to regard this modern phase of Jewish educa- 
tion as a clean break with the past. It is rather to be con- 
sidered the culmination of a system which, amidst all ex- 
ternal changes, has succeeded in preserving an essential 
unity. And the foundations for that unity were laid in 
those early days, more than two thousand years ago, when 
education as a social institution first appeared on the stage 
of Jewish history. 




I. The Jewish school came into being as the result of a long 
process of gradual growth. There is no mention of the school 
in the Bible; nor of regular formal education of children. 
Illustrations from the stories of biblical heroes. The practical 
training of the child. II. Formal education in the Bible. 
The Paradise story. The priests, elders and judges. The 
idea of teaching and learning in the modern sense first ap- 
peared with the emergence of literary prophecy. III. The 
circumstances leading up to the rise of the Synagogue. The 
priest and the prophet. The Babylonian captivity. The Syna- 
gogue as a school for adults ; and as a means of indirect edu- 
cation for children. The early teachers. The Hellenistic 
period. Schools for youths. The Roman wars. The rise of 
the publicly organised and publicly controlled elementary school. 
Three stages in the development of the school. 

THE modern student hardly needs reminding that a school 
system, like any other social institution, does not spring 
into existence, out of nothing as it were, by the fiat of some 
authority. The Jewish popular school came into "being 
as the result of a long process of gradual growth, the 
beginnings of which are lost in obscurity. Nor is this 
process to be thought of as a smooth, steady upward curve. 
Again and again it was either retarded or accelerated by 
the play of social, economic and political forces within and 
without the community. Yet it is possible to trace a fairly 
continuous line of development from the earliest ages, 
when formal education was an unknown thing, down to 
the time when the popular school became a fully estab- 
lished social institution. 

Neither the Hebrew Bible, nor even the New Testament, 



contains any mention of the elementary school. It seems 
quite safe to say that as a public institution such a school 
did not exist during the whole period covered by biblical 
literature. 1 * In the latter part of that period it may be 
assumed that many children, especially boys, received 
some form of literary instruction. As a rule the father 
was the instructor, but sometimes private teachers, Jewish, 
and even non-Jewish, as will be shown later, were engaged 
for the purpose. Such individual teachers might set up 
" schools " of a sort in their own homes, or occasionally in 
some public place, after the manner of classical Athens.f 
These schools were the private affairs of their owners, 
and received no support from the community, nor were 
they subject to any control by it as far as the content 
and form of education were concerned. They were re- 
garded by the law as any other trading concerns, and 
such was also the attitude to them of their neighbours, 
who, it would seem, did not always welcome them into 
their midst. 2 The publicly controlled elementary school 
for children did not come into being until after the period 
of the Bible. 

But, quite apart from schools, the Bible hardly contains 
a reference to the regular education of children, if educa- 
tion is to be understood in its modern sense. There are 
indeed numerous injunctions about "telling," "relating 
to" and "teaching" children. These were interpreted 
by later generations as referring to formal elementary 
education which had then already become a recognised 
social institution. Thus the well-known verses in Deu- 
teronomy, "and thou shalt teach them diligently to thy 
children," "and you shall teach them to your children," 

* Notes are grouped under chapters at the end of the book. 

t The school which Herod attended ("Ant.," 15-10-5) may 
be assumed to have been of this type, and Its curriculum probably 
included secular as well as religious subjects. 


were made the religious basis of Jewish elementary educa- 
tion, and are still regarded so by Jews. 3 

Similarly such verses in the story of the Exodus as " and 
thou shalt relate to thy son," or, " and it shall come to 
pass when thy son ask thee," serve as the foundation for 
the Passover-eve home service in which the child is assigned 
a central function. 4 But a careful examination will leave 
little, if any, doubt that these passages deal in a general 
way with the transmitting of tradition from generation to 
generation, and that such expressions as " children " or 
" sons " usually mean the " next generation " in general. 5 

It is significant that in the numerous stories of the biblical 
heroes and their early childhood we never find a mention 
of literary education as forming part of their upbringing. 
Thus, for instance, the story of Jacob and Esau. The 
children grew up, one becoming a hunter, the other a 
shepherd, occupations for which they were trained by 
actual participation in the life and work of the family, but 
no mention of any other form of education. And so also 
with Joseph. At seventeen he is a shepherd among his 
brothers, the ordinary primitive training which a child 
picks up by imitation, or is taught by the family, but there 
is no reference to any form of book learning, or even of 
regular moral and religious instruction. The same applies 
to Moses or David, or any of the other popular figures. 
People among whom these stories arose and circulated 
could hardly have reached such a conception as formal 
education for the young. 

In the period following the Roman wars and the destruc- 
tion of the second temple, when education became the 
main content of Jewish life, taking the place of the political 
institutions of which the people were deprived, the life 
stories of those early heroes were retold in accordance with 
the demands of the new situation. Shem, the eldest son of 
Noah, became in Jewish lore the founder of an academy 


for the study of the Torah which counted among its 
students both Isaac and his son Jacob, who studied there 
for fourteen years and later on transmitted his knowledge 
to Joseph. Even David was made to spend his time in the 
" House of study " in discussions about details of ritual and 
ceremonial. 6 

On the other hand, the practical training of the child, 
religious and social, is as old as the family itself. Indeed, 
the development of the family as a social institution was 
due to a large extent to the need for protecting the child 
and equipping him for the life that awaited him. As 
among other peoples so also among the Jews, this training 
was in the form of direct sharing in the activities of the 
family and through it in that of the community. Trades 
were hereditary in the whole of the ancient world, a prac- 
tice which has not entirely died out even now. As to direct 
religious training, the Bible furnishes us with numerous 
examples. We read, for instance, of children going with 
their parents to the sanctuaries, or of mothers teaching their 
daughters lamentations for the dead. 7 A vivid illustration 
of practical religious training by direct participation may 
be found in Jeremiah: children collecting wood; the 
fathers kindling the fire; and the mothers kneading the 
dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven. 8 

The child occupies a prominent place in biblical litera- 
ture. We see him in various roles : as a victim of tribal 
warfare, or an object of the lawgiver's solicitude; we see 
him at work, we see him at play; but never do we find him 
engaged in study. 

Literary education for children was uncommon during 
most of the biblical period; it began to claim recognition 
only when that period was drawing toward its close. 



The position of elementary education in Bible times will 
be more clearly understood when it is viewed in the wider 
context of the position of formal education in general. In 
its very first pages the Bible shows us indirectly, but none 
the less clearly, what the attitude to learning, knowledge, 
or wisdom was in the earliest times. Thus, for instance, 
the Paradise story, approached from an educational angle. 
There is a wistfulness about this story, a yearning after 
some " golden era " of the past, gone never to return. In 
those days, so the people dreamt, there was no hard work, 
" in the sweat of the brow," and the earth was not yet so 
reluctant to yield up its fruit. Nor was it necessary for 
man to be constantly on his guard against the ferocity of 
the beast; there was peace between him and the animal 
kingdom. Life was simple and happy. Man needed only 
to tend the trees in the garden; and as to water it flowed 
in abundance. Now all this is changed. Why? All be- 
cause man arrogantly began to reach out after knowledge, 
which belongs to the gods. The only "benefit" brought 
by knowledge is the need for clothes, which is not con- 
sidered a mark of progress, or a step leading in the direc- 
tion of greater happiness. This story reflects the mood of 
an age, in the remote past, when education, learning of any 
kind beyond that needed in the simple life of the primi- 
tive peasant, was regarded as suspect, even harmful. Later 
ages merely repeated it, or read into it their own ideas 
without suspecting its original implications, but even the 
mere repetition is not without its significance. 

Teaching of a kind there was even in the earliest times, 
but this was of an entirely practical nature: advice, 
guidance, and direction as required by immediate needs. 
There were laws and customs and statutes handed down 
from generation to generation. These were in the keeping 


of the priests, to whom one could apply in case of need. 
We find in the Bible concrete cases, mainly in matters 
between man and God, in which the guidance of the priests 
was sought. 9 

There were also elders and judges who decided in 
matters arising between man and his neighbour, and seers 
or prophets who " divined " or had " visions." 10 Wherever 
there are " codes " and " statutes " some form of teaching 
is implied, regular or occasional, for their preservation and 
interpretation. Such teaching was no doubt carried on 
within the priestly caste, the priests thus being the first 
teachers in Israel; but it is most unlikely that it extended 
to children. Similarly, within the prophetic order the 
forms and methods of their work were taught to younger 
members the " sons of the prophets." As we know from 
the Bible, there were at times as many as a hundred sitting 
before one teacher. These were what may be called the 
first schools in Israel. 

But as to the mass of the people the concept of educa- 
tion, of teaching and learning as a continuous process un- 
connected with immediate practical needs, hardly existed 
in the earlier times. There was as yet no regular term to 
denote either learning or teaching. Instead, it is usually 
"commanding," "warning," "showing," or "declaring." 11 
The idea of education first appeared with the emergence of 
prophecy from " seeing " or " divination " into preaching, 
exhorting, and teaching. It is in the Book of Deuteronomy 
that the primitive ideas of "guiding" or "instructing" 
definitely gave place to the conceptions of teaching and 
learning in the modern sense: education had arrived. 12 
As yet it was not a regular form of social activity; nor was 
there any clear appreciation of the value of formal educa- 
tion for children; a long time was to pass before this ulti- 
mate phase of development was reached. But once the 
idea had emerged it was inevitable that it should seek its 


realisation through a suitable social institution. Such an 
institution, the Synagogue, came into being as a result of 
the political and spiritual crisis of the Babylonian cap- 


The circumstances leading up to the rise of this institu- 
tion may be described as follows. Before the fall of Jeru- 
salem in 586 B.C.E. there were two spiritual tendencies, 
sharply antagonistic, struggling for supremacy in the life 
of the Jewish community. There was the priest, represent- 
ing the static element, with his realistic views on life, his 
minute ceremonialism and sacrificial ritual, centred round 
temple and shrine, with his religious outlook, strongly 
local and tribal. But there was also the prophet, repre- 
senting the dynamic element, with his stubborn refusal to 
submit to facts, his vehement demands for a new heaven 
and a new earth, and his lofty universalism recognising 
neither national divisions nor territorial boundaries. Then 
came the crisis of 586 B.C.E. The temple was destroyed and 
the upper classes taken into captivity to Babylon. The 
whole priestly world was laid in ruins at one stroke. There 
was neither temple, nor shrine, nor sacrificial ceremonial. 
The fate of Judaism hung in the balance. 

It was then that the people, in their extreme necessity, 
began to turn to the teachings of the prophets. In these 
they found consolation in the present as well as hope for 
the future. And as a result of this change of heart there 
arose a new institution, which, in its freedom from the re- 
strictions of time and place and caste, was an expression of 
the universalism of Prophecy the Synagogue. This did 
not signify the immediate displacement of the priestly by 
the prophetic outlook : for centuries synagogue service and 
temple ritual were carried on side by side. It was an 
attempt, under stress of external circumstances, at a higher 


synthesis of the two, which was not achieved until after 
the final downfall of the political state as a result of the 
disastrous Roman wars. 

The Synagogue, "the greatest practical achievement of 
the Jewish people/' 13 in the words of a well-known scholar, 
was the " forerunner of the Church and the Mosque," but 
it was also, what is important for the history of education, 
the first school for adults, or popular university. People 
would come together, perhaps once a week on the Sabbath, 
and one more learned than the others would read and ex- 
plain some passages from the Scriptures. The liturgy grew 
up gradually around the instruction which must have been 
at first the chief purpose of these meetings. 14 The teach- 
ing of children at that period, and indeed for long after- 
wards, was still entirely in the hands of the parents. But 
even in its earliest form the Synagogue supplied an im- 
portant means of indirect education for them. For the 
children would accompany their elders on their visits to 
those religious gatherings, and there they would listen to 
the discourses and learn to join in the prayers, thus being 
gradually initiated into the life of the community. 15 

From an early period Jewish religious ceremonial, as will 
be shown later, had as one of its principal aims this prac- 
tical education of the child, and was designed largely with 
a view to appealing to his imagination and arousing his 
interest in the religious and social institutions of his people. 

To the early post-exilic period belong the first hesitating 
efforts at the creation of an elementary educational ter- 
minology. The teacher is referred to as " one who causes 
to understand," or "to be wise" "mevin," "maskil" 
words which failed to win wide acceptance; but there is 
also a tentative use of the term which permanently estab- 
lished itself in Jewish education " melammed "; and the 
pupil is denoted by a word which has remained in general 
use down to the present day "talmid." 16 The earliest 


teachers were apparently sent out from Jerusalem to travel 
from place to place with copies of the " book of the law." 
Their method was- to read and explain passages from Scrip- 
ture a method which remained fundamental in the Jewish 
school throughout the ages. 17 It was in that period, too, 
that the new "Assyrian" alphahet was adopted for 
Hebrew, a reform which greatly facilitated the spread of 
literacy. This was the beginning of Jewish popular educa- 

Two centuries later Palestine, as part of the Persian 
empire, came for the first time into actual contact with 
Hellenism when that empire was conquered by the armies 
of Alexander the Great. The Jewish people were dazzled 
by the splendours of the new culture. The Greek language 
and literature, Greek institutions, customs, and practices 
spread among the upper classes of the community, and the 
foundations of Judaism, of the Jewish way of life, were 
profoundly shaken. Then came the inevitable reaction. 
The Jews displayed a power of resistance to the Hellenistic 
rulers which must have been unexpected by them. The 
educational activities of the preceding two centuries had 
brought about a remarkable spiritual transformation, 
especially amongst the common people. The Maccabean 
revolt against Syria resulted in the establishment of an in- 
dependent Jewish state which lasted for two-thirds of a 
century. The Greeks were expelled; Hellenistic influences 
could not be eradicated. The first Hasmonean to assume 
the royal crown was named Aristobulus and called himself 
Philhellen. But Judaism was then already strong enough 
to be able to take from Hellenism all that it found useful 
without endangering its future development. 

At that time, it would appear, a new stage was reached 
in the growth of Jewish popular education with the founda- 
tion of schools for youths of sixteen and seventeen. We 
know little of the organisation of these schools, but it seems 


likely that their establishment was due to the initiative of 
Simon the son of Shetah, the leader of the Pharisees, who 
was, perhaps, the brother of Queen Salome Alexandra. 18 
The aim of the new educational institution seems to have 
been the promotion of the teaching of the Pharisees, and 
the subject-matter was most likely the interpretation of the 
Scriptures according to the tradition of the Oral Law. The 
method of study, as seen later in the Talmud, was not un- 
like that of the Greek rhetorical school for instance, the 
practice of arguing on both sides of a case. Before the 
Maccabean wars, it should be remembered, the purely 
Greek gymnasium for youths had already made its appear- 
ance in Jerusalem. 19 It is therefore not unreasonable to 
assume that the rise of the Jewish school for youths owed 
something to Hellenistic influence, to which it was partly 
intended to act as an antidote. 

From this it was but a short and an inevitable step to the 
elementary school for young children. Private, fee-paying 
schools, set up by individual teachers, Jewish and even 
non-Jewish, gradually spread through the country. Public 
control and organisation did not come until after the 
Roman wars, which resulted in the destruction of the 
Jewish political state. This was a turning-point in the his- 
tory of Judaism; it brought the development of Jewish 
popular education to its final stage: the establishment of 
the publicly organised and publicly controlled elementary 

Elementary education after that spread very rapidly, 
until by the fourth century C.E. it became practically uni- 
versal; at any rate, as far as boys were concerned. In the 
course of a discussion between two scholars of the middle 
of the fourth century C.E., one of them asks : " Is it possible 
to find anyone without elementary school knowledge?" 
The other answers : " Yes, it is possible with a child who 
was taken captive among non-Jews." 20 


It will thus be seen that the development of Jewish 
popular education was marked by three definite stages: 
the rise of the Synagogue during, or soon after, the Baby- 
lonian captivity; the establishment of schools for youths in 
the period following the Maccabean wars; and the founda- 
tion of the public elementary school after the destruction 
of the second temple by the Romans and the downfall of 
the political state. In each case, it will be noticed, an ex- 
ternal political event served as a stimulus to accelerate the 
process of inner development. Popular education began 
with the teaching of adults, gradually extending down- 
wards until, after six or seven hundred years, it reached 
the child. But once fully established it continued along 
essentially the same lines, without a break, down to the 
end of the eighteenth century. 



I. Evidence for the existence of the elementary school out- 
side Talmudic literature. Direct evidence in Talmudic litera- 
ture. The tradition about Joshua ben Gamala ; its interpreta- 
tion as an historical outline of the development of elementary 
education. II. The current view on the rise of the elemen- 
tary school. Illustration from Professor Klausner's " His- 
tory." Criticism of the current view. III. Did " compul- 
sory " and " universal " education ever exist among the Jews? 
Evidence against it. The illiterate class. Schools were still 
uncommon in the second century C.E. The idea of the father 
as the teacher was deeply rooted. The gradual shifting of the 
conception of education from the individual to the social plane. 
The lack of educational facilities in the third century C.E. The 
story of Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Hiyya. Moral persuasion 
instead of legal compulsion. General elementary education 
was accomplished about the fourth century C.E. 

THE story of the rise and development of the Jewish 
popular school system, and particularly of the elementary 
school, presented in the preceding pages, is radically 
different from the current view and seems to require 
further substantiation before it can hope to win acceptance. 
It is necessary, in the first place, to consider the evidence 
bearing on the subject. 

Outside Talmudic literature there is no direct evidence 
as to the rise of the elementary school. 

Certain passages from Philo and Josephus figure promi- 
nently in the writings of historians, who regard them as 
proving the existence of an almost universal school system 
in Palestine before the destruction of the second temple. 
Philo says : " Since the Jews esteem their laws as divine 



revelations and are instructed in the knowledge of them 
from their earliest youth, they bear the image of the law 
in their souls." Josephus is more explicit: "We take 
most pains of all with the instruction of children, and 
esteem the observation of the laws and the piety corre- 
sponding with them the most important affair of our whole 
life." And again: "He [Moses] commanded to instruct 
children in the elements of knowledge, to teach them to 
walk according to the laws, and to know the deeds of their 
forefathers." 1 

One cannot fail to note that these passages are of an 
obviously apologetic character, and that they contain no 
mention of schools. The most natural interpretation is 
that they refer to parental training of children in religious 
observances. This form of education was at all times an 
important element in Jewish social and religious life, but 
it was not necessarily of a formal character, nor did it 
always include such a subject as, for instance, reading, 
especially when the father himself could not do it. In 
Rome, too, we are told, after 450 B.C.E. every boy had to 
learn the laws of the twelve tables and to be able to explain 
their meaning. But up to about 300 B.C.E. education there 
had been entirely confined to the home. 2 In the aristocratic 
circles to which both Philo and Josephus belonged it may be 
assumed that this domestic training was of a more thorough- 
going character and included also secular subjects, such as 
Greek literature and philosophy, for which private teachers 
were engaged. 3 At any rate these general statements are 
too vague to admit the inference of the existence of an 
organised popular school system. 

Even in Talmudic literature the direct evidence as to the 
beginnings of the elementary school is extremely scanty. 
There is a tradition, consisting of a single line, stating that 
" Simon the son of Shetah arranged that children should 
go to school." No further details are given as to the 


nature of the "school," its organisation, or its scope of 
work. The only other tradition on the origin of the school 
is contained in a well-known passage which may be re- 
garded as the most important direct evidence in our pos- 

" Truly that man is to be remembered for good Joshua 
ben Gainala is his name but for whom the Torah 4 would 
have been forgotten among Israel. Because formerly he 
who had a father was taught by him the Torah; but he 
who had no father did not learn it. How did they explain 
it? 'And you shall teach them ' was interpreted to mean 
'and you yourselves shall teach/ 5 Then it was arranged 
that teachers of children should be placed in Jerusalem, 
How did they explain it? ' For out of Zion shall go forth 
the Torah/ 6 And still he who had a father was taken up 
by him to Jerusalem to be taught; he who had no father 
did not go up to learn. Then it was arranged that teachers 
should be placed in every district and that the pupils 
should be admitted at the age of sixteen or seventeen. 
But he with whom his teacher got angry rebelled and left. 
Until Joshua ben Gamala came and arranged that teachers 
should be placed in every province and in every city, and 
that the pupils should be admitted at the age of six or 
seven." 7 

It will be noticed that these traditions apparently give 
different founders for the school : according to the first, it 
was Simon ben Shetah, said to be the brother of Queen 
Salome, who reigned from 76 to 67 B.C.E.; according to the 
second, it was Joshua ben Gamala, the High Priest who 
lived a hundred and twenty-five years later. But the con- 
tradiction, which some writers are at pains to reconcile, 
seems to be merely imaginary. It is more reasonable to 
regard the two reports as complementary to one another. 
The second takes up the story where it was left by the first 
and carries it a step further. 8 


For a number o reasons it would not be safe to treat this 
latter tradition as a strictly historical document, especially 
as far as practical detail is concerned. Joshua ben Gamala, 
it should be remembered, occupied the office of High Priest 
just before the Roman war, a time of social and political 
upheaval. It would be difficult to think of a less suitable 
period for the institution of such a reform as elementary 
education on a wide scale. Another reason which makes 
the literal historicity of this important document some- 
what doubtful is that they in whose name it is recorded 
lived almost two hundred years after Joshua ben Gamala. 9 

And yet we may see in it a fairly correct historical out- 
line of the development of elementary education. Begin- 
ning with the earliest period, when children's education 
was entirely of a domestic nature, it goes on to the estab- 
lishment of schools for youths. This, as we are told in the 
other tradition, took place in the time of Simon ben Shetah, 
when the Pharisees regained power. From there it pro- 
ceeds to elementary education, the beginning of which is 
placed towards the end of the second temple period. 

According to the view advanced in the preceding chapter 
the growth of the elementary school was a very gradual 
process. Its real development as a public institution began 
after the destruction of the temple, and the period of its 
most rapid spread came with the downfall of Bar-Kochba 
in 135 C.E. By the fourth century C.E. the process of 
development reached its completion with the elementary 
school for boys as a publicly organised and controlled 


A fairly typical statement of the current view on the rise 
of the elementary school will be found in Professor 
Klausner's "History" (" Historiyyah Yisreelith "). In 
volume three of his " History " we read : 


" Simon ben Shetah arranged that children should go to 
school. The word for school * Beth-hasepher ' is formed 
in the spirit of the Hebrew language and is so natural that 
we are forced to assume that it was coined at the latest in 
the Hasmonean period, when Hebrew was generally re- 
vived. It is therefore almost certain that the word, together 
with the institution, was created by Simon ben Shetah. 
Until his time the fathers used to teach their own chil- 
dren ... or the Synagogue officials 'Hazzan' 10 who 
either went about from house to house or got them 
together in the Synagogue in a casual way. But in the 
days of the Hasmoneans, when the Pharisees had the 
management of internal affairs, they took measures to 
spread a knowledge of the Torah by the institution of 
popular schools. As Simon was at the head of the Phari- 
sees, he was the founder of the Jewish school, ... It is 
clear to me that Simon was the founder of the popular 
school in Jerusalem, and, perhaps towards the end of his 
life, also in all the important provincial towns; and Joshua 
ben Gamala, who served as High Priest for a little over a 
year, instituted such schools in every province and in 
every town." 11 

The development of the school according to this was 
therefore somewhat as follows : At first irregular teaching 
in the Synagogue, or at home, by the Synagogue official; 
then the establishment by Simon of popular schools in 
Jerusalem and other large towns, presumably as in- 
dependent institutions, apart from the Synagogues. 
Nothing further is said as to the organisation or nature of 
these schools. 

In volume four of his "History," Professor Klausner 
returns to the subject and becomes a little more explicit : 
"The establishment of schools in the time of Simon was 
restricted to Jerusalem alone. But Joshua ben Gamala 
arranged that teachers should be placed in every province 


and in every town and that children should be admitted at 
the age of six or seven. The school was apparently con- 
nected with the Synagogue, and Josephus " who does not 
mention Joshua as the author of this reform "did not 
understand that at the same time when the destruction of 
the political state was brought about by the high priests, one 
of their number, Joshua, prepared for the salvation of the 
people by the institution of a universal education system, 
the first in the world. , . ." Joshua ben Gamala's period 
of office, it will be remembered, fell between 63-65 C.E., 
when the dark shadows of the Roman war were already 
hanging low over Palestine, and when the conditions for 
educational reforms could hardly be more unfavourable. 
As to Simon, it is difficult to realise that all the talk of his 
educational activities is based on a single line in Talmudic 
tradition, unsupported from anywhere else, except by such 
general statements as those quoted from Philo and 
Josephus which are taken to prove the universality of edu- 
cation among Jews in early times. 

Other writers on the subject differ in details. Some, like 
Klausner, speak of " universal " education, presumably in- 
vesting the term with its usual connotation; or else using 
it in a loose manner. Others speak vaguely of " children " 
in general. Still others mention only boys. But they all 
exhibit a remarkable unanimity as to the establishment by 
some authority of a compulsory system of education, that 
authority more usually taken to be Joshua ben Gamala. 12 


This generally accepted view that a system of popular 
education, compulsory and "universal," whatever this latter 
term may be intended to express, was introduced among 
Jews by some authority before the destruction of the 
second temple shows a curious lack of historic perspective; 


it is the projection of a modem idea into a time and a set 
of conditions where it could not fit. Compulsory educa- 
tion in the modern sense never existed among the Jews, 
nor, for that matter, amongst any other people in ancient 
times. Sparta was the only possible exception, but there it 
would be more correct to speak of military conscription for 
boys over the age of seven than of compulsory education. 13 
The whole weight of indirect evidence is against this view. 
All the evidence for it is contained in the Talmudic tradi- 
tion, already dealt with, which mentions Joshua ben 
Gamala as the founder of the elementary school. But that 
tradition does not contain a word about the compulsory 
attendance of all or any children; it merely speaks of the 
provision of educational facilities. The position was very 
likely similar to that of pre-war Russia, for instance. There, 
too, facilities for education were provided in towns and 
some villages; these were lamentably inadequate, and large 
numbers of people, in fact the great majority, either would 
not or could not avail themselves of them. 

That large numbers of children, both in Palestine and 
Babylonia, did not attend schools in the period under dis- 
cussion is abundantly clear from the picture presented to 
us in Talmudic literature. The existence of the unedu- 
cated, or illiterate class the " am-haarez " and the social 
and religious abyss between them and the adherents of the 
Pharisees, is in itself sufficient to destroy any idea of " com- 
pulsory " and " universal *' education among Jews of those 
times. The contempt, even the hate, which is so often 
apparent in the relations of the educated to the "am- 
haarez " reminds one strongly of the arrogant attitude of 
the Hellene towards the Barbarian, or even to the Helot. 
According to a famous rabbi of the second century C.E., 
" One is obliged to say three blessings every day : ' Who 
has not made me a heathen; who has not made me a 
woman; who has not made me an " am-haarez." ' " I. H. 


Weiss hears in that an echo of the practice of Socrates to 
thank God every day for his having been born a human 
being and not an animal, a man and not a woman, a Greek 
and not a Barbarian. 14 And the " am-haarez," we are told 
on good authority, did not give his children an education. 
There was nobody to compel him to do it. 15 

Even in the second century C.E. schools were not at all 
common, and teaching was mainly done by the father if 
he were able to do it. Rabbi Akiba, the greatest scholar of 
his time and the spiritual leader during the Bar-Kochba 
rebellion, when speaking on the teaching of children, says 
simply and naturally : " When thou teachest thy son, teach 
him out of a well-corrected book." 16 The idea that it was 
the father's duty to teach his sons was deeply rooted and 
held its ground long after the school had become a recog- 
nised institution. " It is the father's duty to teach his son " 
is the plain statement of the Mishnah, and we find that 
this was the practice of various scholars in later ages. 17 In 
this connection the following is rather significant: "It is 
well known to Him who has created the world by His 
word that the son fears his father more than his mother, 
because it is the father who teaches him the Torah." This 
practice was largely responsible for the existence of the 
illiterate class at a time when Jewish learning had already 
reached a high stage of development. 

On the other hand, there are numerous passages in 
Talmudic literature whose apparent purpose seems to have 
been to counteract this practice and to emphasise the social 
side of education. The following are typical examples: 
" He who studies the Torah, but does not teach it to others, 
of him it is said, 'He despised the word of the Lord.'" 
"He who learns for the sake of teaching others, will be 
given the opportunity both to learn and to teach." " He 
who teachers the Torah to his friend's son, it is reckoned 
to him as if he had given him birth." "And thou shalt 


teach them to thy children this is to be interpreted, * To 
thy pupils/ For thus you find everywhere that pupils are 
called ' children/ as it is said, ' You are children to the Lord 
your God/" The teacher was acting vicariously for the 
father. 18 One can trace in these sayings the shifting of the 
conception of education from the individual to the social 
plane and the gradual emergence of the school as a publicly 
controlled institution. 

Even in the third century and later there were com- 
munities where no facilities existed for elementary educa- 
tion. This appears quite clearly from such statements as 
the following, all emanating from that period : " A scholar 
is not permitted to live in a town where there are no ele- 
mentary teachers." Or, "Any town where there are no 
schools is to be destroyed/' The well-known saying by a 
scholar of the third century that Jerusalem was destroyed 
because school-children were kept idle there quite obviously 
was prompted by the state of affairs in his own time. 19 
The following report of a discussion between two rabbis 
of that period throws rather an instructive light on the 
state of education in Palestine and deserves translation in 

" When Rabbi Hanina and Rabbi Hiyya had an argu- 
ment, Rabbi Hanina said, ' How can you argue with me? 
If the Torah, God forbid, were forgotten in Israel, I would 
restore it by my dialectic powers/ Said Rabbi Hyya, ' How 
can you argue with me? I am preventing the Torah from 
being forgotten in Israel. I go and plant flax and weave 
nets and catch gazelles. Their flesh I give to orphans for 
food; of the skins I make scrolls on which I write out the 
five books of Moses. Then I go up to a town where there 
are no teachers for children and teach five boys to read the 
five books, each one a different book. Similarly I teach six 
boys the six volumes of the Mishnah, and I say to them, 
" Until I come back let every one of you teach to his fellow 


the reading of Ms book of the Pentateuch, or his volume 
of the Mishnah." * " 30 Such was the position in a com- 
munity amongst whom, we are told, " compulsory " and 
" universal " education had been introduced some centuries 

Generations after Joshua ben Gamala the rabbis found it 
necessary to insist strongly on the importance of " starting 
young." "He who studies in childhood, what can he be 
likened to? To ink written on new paper. But he who 
studies in old age, what is he like to? To ink written on 
blotted paper." This is amplified elsewhere, in apt similes, 
by various scholars of the first and second centuries c.E. 21 
All this would have had no point if education had been 
anything like general, let alone " compulsory " and " uni- 
versal." It seems clear that the contrary was true. Many 
people started late; many more had their education alto- 
gether neglected. In the absence of legal compulsion, 
moral persuasion was resorted to. A continuous and power- 
ful appeal was made to the religious feelings of the people. 
Success came only very gradually and slowly; but when it 
did come and general education was accomplished, about 
the fourth century C.E., it rested on a surer foundation than 
any law enacted by public authority could have given it. 
That was the conviction of the individual Jew that educa- 
tion was the most essential condition for the survival of 
Judaism, the way of life in which all his religious and 
social ideals found their expression. 



I. The legal position of the woman in early times. The 
father's power over his daughter. The husband's power over 
his wife. The woman's social position. The mother. Out- 
standing women in almost every walk of life. Conjugal affec- 
tion. Illustrations from the Bible, The period of the second 
temple. Proverbs, chap. xxxi. Prominent women in fact and 
fiction. The education of girls in those times. II. The 
gradual deterioration of the woman's social position. Hellen- 
istic influence. Ecclesiastes. The transformation of Jewish 
life after the Roman wars. Leadership of learning. Educa- 
tion closed to the woman. The social and religious life of the 
woman in Talmudic times. Illustrations from rabbinical 
literature. Woman in early Christianity. 

To see the question of the education of the girl in its 
proper context, it is necessary to consider the position of 
the woman in general in the period with which we are 

The legal position of the woman among the early 
Hebrews, as amongst other contemporary peoples, was an 
unenviable one. Before her marriage she was the property 
of her father, who could sell her into marriage or into 
slavery. A special prohibition was needed to save her from 
the worse fate of being sold into prostitution. 1 It is true 
the father had the same power over his son, but there is 
little doubt that it was the daughter on whom it was 
more often exercised, although her monetary value was 
apparently lower. 3 One need only read the gruesome story 
of Judges xix. to realise the extent of the father's authority 
as well as of the helplessness of the daughter. 3 Instead of 



speaking of the power of the father over his daughter, it 
would, however, be more correct to speak of the authority 
of man over woman in general. For marriage, except in 
special circumstances, did not necessarily mean an im- 
provement in the girl's lot. As often as not it might 
amount only to a change of ownership. The wife was the 
purchased property of her hushand, who was her lord and 
master, as is shown by the very Hebrew term, "Baal," by 
which he is commonly denoted. Even a woman of out- 
standing beauty and personality, when asked in marriage, 
consented by saying: "Behold thine handmaid is a ser- 
vant to wash the feet of the slaves of my lord/' 4 

Already in the story of the creation the woman is told in 
so many words : " And he shall rule over thee/' And in 
one of the most important legal and religious documents 
of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, we read : " Neither 
shalt thou covet thy neighbour's wife; neither shalt thou 
desire thy neighbour's house, his field, or his man-servant, 
or his maid-servant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is 
thy neighbour's/* 5 The wife is simply included in a cata- 
logue of various articles of property belonging to a man. 
This same equation of wives with houses or fields we find 
centuries later in Jeremiah: "Therefore will I give their 
wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall possess 
them." "And their houses shall be turned unto others, 
fields and wives together/' 6 Woman's task in life was to 
work hard, to bear children, to win her husband's love, 
and to try and hold it. And this last was not easy, for 
divorce was the husband's privilege. It is the man who 
always " takes a wife "; it is he who can send her away 
at any moment, for any reasons, or for no reason at all. 7 

Yet it would be a mistake to exaggerate the woman's 
legal disabilities, or to identify completely her legal with 
her social position. Besides being a daughter and a wife, 
woman was also a mother, and the mother's status lacked 


neither dignity nor even authority. She was to be accorded 
the same " honour " as the father; like him she was also 
to be "feared/' And in the matter of "fear," because 
there naturally was need for special stress in her case, the 
Bible goes out of its way to mention the mother first. 8 
There is sufficient evidence to show that women of royal 
and noble birth, especially the queen and the queen-mother, 
exercised considerable social and political influence. 9 But 
even a woman of the common people could contrive by 
energy and ability to overcome her legal disadvantages 
and to rise to a position of social prominence. The numer- 
ous biblical heroines, from Sarah in patriarchal times to 
Huldah in the critical period before the fall of the first 
temple, bear abundant testimony to this fact. Some of 
these were distinguished for personality and masterfulness 
of character; others won popularity by the more native 
womanly charms. We find these outstanding women 
almost in every walk of life: in the home, in religion, in 
politics, in prophecy, in the literary art, even in military 
affairs. 10 It is a noteworthy fact that some of the most 
popular, as well as important, literary documents em- 
bodied in the Bible claim the authorship of women. 11 
The achievements of these women, the names of many of 
whom must have been household words, could not but 
have a favourable effect on the attitude to women in general. 
As to marital relations, it would be wrong to think that 
the wife was merely her husband's slave. There was no 
lack of conjugal loyalty and affection; and there were not 
a few who knew the meaning of a love "as strong as 
death/' which could not be bought for " all the substance 
of one's house," and of a jealousy " as cruel as the grave/' 12 
Such love and jealousy are eloquently illustrated in the 
early chapters of the prophet Hosea. A simple but deeply 
moving account of marital devotion will be found in the 
following from Ezekiel: "The word of the Lord came 


unto me, saying, Son of Man, behold, I take away from 
thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke : yet neither shalt 
thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down. 
Forbear to cry, make no mourning for the dead, bind the 
tire of thine head upon thee, and put on thy shoes upon 
thy feet, and cover not thy lips, and eat not the bread of 
men. So I spake unto the people in the morning: and at 
even my wife died. . . ." 13 And one of the last prophets 
speaks of the wife in an ultra-modern manner as of a 
friend and colleague, and denounces divorce as a betrayal 
of friendship. 14 It would be misleading to regard men like 
Hosea or Ezekiel as typical of the people as a whole. Yet 
their views are not without significance for the under- 
standing of the position of women in those times. Even 
more significant is the fact that the union of man and 
woman is used symbolically by the great prophets to re- 
present the relationship of God with His people. 15 

During the times of the second temple the legal position 
of the woman gradually improved, mainly as a result of 
the development of the " Oral Law/' whilst her social 
status was at least as good as formerly. From the earlier 
part of this period we have a valuable document which 
throws a significant light on the attitude to woman at 
any rate among the higher classes of the community. 
Proverbs, chapter 31, may be described as an "ode to the 
ideal wife." The subject is apparently a woman of the 
upper circles, whose "husband is known in the gates" 
where " he sits among the elders of the land." The poet 
speaks in glowing terms of her devotion to husband and 
children, of her industry and ability, of her charily, wis- 
dom, and piety. Universal praise is the reward of her 
virtues. It may be assumed that this " ideal of the perfect 
wife " was as rarely achieved as most other ideals, yet it is 
important to note that the description contains no sugges- 
tion of the inferior status of the wife, except perhaps that 


it is the husband who " sits among the elders " that is, 
takes part in the government of the community. 

Many women stand out prominently in the fact and fiction 
of that period, some of them strongly reminiscent of earlier 
biblical figures. There is a Deborah and Jael combined in 
Judith; and the mother-martyr, in the reign of Antiochus, 
the tale of whose heroic sacrifice is still capable of stirring 
the imagination of youth. 16 There is Queen Salome to 
whose reign later ages turned back wistfully as to some- 
thing like a "golden era"; and Mariamne, the unfortu- 
nate wife of Herod, who embodied the proud tradition of 
her own family, the Hasmoneans, as well as of the long 
line of outstanding women in Israel. And with her that 
line, at least as far as the main body of the Jewish people 
is concerned, seems to come to a close. 17 

Little can be said of the education of girls during the 
period under discussion. With regard to practical train- 
ing of a religious or social nature the girl is mentioned as 
well as the boy; and the teaching of the mother is com- 
mended equally with the instruction of the father. 18 As 
to formal literary education, in so far as it was given to 
children by the father, or towards the end of the period 
by private teachers, there is no good reason to suppose that 
serious discrimination was practised against the girls. 
More especially since such education was the privilege 
mainly of the upper classes. That some preference was 
shown to the boy over the girl goes without saying, but this 
has been the case all over the world almost to our own 



The first indication of the coming change in the attitude 
towards woman is found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Speak- 
ing, perhaps, from personal experience, the writer declares 
that woman is "more bitter than death"; "her heart is 


snares and nets and her hands are as fetters"; and that 
whilst "he has found one man among a thousand," he 
" could not discover one woman among all these." This is 
quite a new sentiment, and no parallel can be found for it in 
earlier Hebrew literature. 19 One cannot help comparing it 
with such sayings as the following from a Greek writer: 
" On the earth and in the sea there are many wild beasts, 
hut the worst of these is a woman/' Or, " Every wife is, 
of course, an evil; the lucky man is he who secures the 
mildest." 20 In spite of such sayings, which can be greatly 
multiplied, it is probably an exaggeration to say, as some 
writers do, that the woman in Greece passed her life as a 
slave in a slave state, or that she was nothing but a means 
of procuring a supply of children a kind of " isolated re- 
productive organ." 21 On the other hand, there can be little 
doubt that the Greeks regarded the woman as an inferior 
being, and marriage as mainly a duty to the state, or a 
necessary evil. For legal purposes the woman in Athens 
always remained under the tutelage of a man, and socially 
she was rather despised. "To the average stupid Athenian," 
a well-known authority says, "it was probably rather 
wicked for a woman to have any character, wicked for her 
to wish to take part in public life, wicked for her to 
acquire learning or to doubt any part of the conventional 
religion, just as it was wicked for her to deceive her hus- 
band." 22 

Now, we shall be in a better position to understand the 
change of attitude towards the woman among Jews when 
we remember that from the middle of the fourth century 
B.C.E. Hellenistic influence became an increasingly im- 
portant factor in Jewish life, and especially in the develop- 
ment of Jewish educational thought and practice. After 
the destruction of the second temple we shall hear Jewish 
rabbis speaking of the woman almost as contemptuously 
as some of the Hellenistic philosophers, and sometimes 


even using their identical expressions, thus pointing clearly 
to the source o their inspiration. 

The following may serve to illustrate the gradual de- 
gradation of the status of the Jewish woman from the Hel- 
lenistic period onwards. A rabbi of that period warns his 
disciples, amongst other things, against indulgence in much 
conversation with women. This saying is interpreted in 
a later age to apply even to one's own wife, and on the 
basis of it conversation with women is stated to bring evil 
upon a man and to lead him to hell. Still later the very 
voice of woman is proclaimed as lewdness woman has 
already reached the state of being regarded merely as a 
means to an end, an instrument for perpetuating the com- 
munity: the "fall of woman" from her former position 
was complete. 23 

The foregoing is not intended to mean that the radical 
change in the position of the Jewish woman in post- 
biblical times was entirely, or even chiefly, due to Hellen- 
istic influence. There can be little doubt that the incur- 
sion of this foreign influence played a not unimportant 
part in this as in many other spheres of Jewish life. The 
chief cause, however, must be sought elsewhere. It was 
the transformation of Jewish life, in form and in content, 
which resulted from the Roman wars and the destruction 
of the second temple. The political state gave place to 
the religious community, and popular education " the 
study of the Torah" became the principal, almost the 
only, outlet for Jewish group life. Leadership no longer 
went with birth, with membership of a class or a caste, or, 
as so often in the past, even with inspiration, but with 
distinction in scholarship. "After the destruction of the 
temple/' the rabbis say, " the prophetic gift was taken from 
the prophets, but not from the scholars," and so "the 
scholar is superior to the prophet." 24 For it was no longer 
a political leadership, but a leadership of learning. It 


could be achieved only by one means education in the 
narrow sense in which it came to be understood then, the 
study of the " Written " and the " Oral " Law, But this means 
was closed to the woman, who was effectively debarred from 
either teaching or learning in the schools which began to 
multiply at that time. In this the Jewish woman found 
herself in a similar position to that of the Hellenistic 
woman. But in her case this exclusion from the school 
carried with it also the exclusion from every form of public 
activity and her reduction to the position of a subservient 
and inarticulate partner in Jewish life. She was coupled 
with the illiterate as a matter of course; or, when religious 
ceremonial was concerned, with the slave and the minor 
a manner of speech borrowed from the Greek. And it 
became quite natural for a pious Jew to thank God that 
he was not born a heathen, a slave, or a woman. And 
here, again, he did not even suspect that he shared these 
sentiments with some heathen Greek philosophers 1 25 

In the whole of the vast Talmudic literature there is 
only one voice raised in favour of girls' education. Ben- 
Azzai, a colleague of Rabbi Akiba, held the opinion that it 
was a father's duty to teach his daughter the Torah. Ben- 
Azzai was a bachelor. 26 On the other hand, there is abun- 
dant evidence, direct and indirect, in rabbinical literature 
which leaves no doubt whatever that the average woman 
was deprived of every opportunity of formal education, 
either secular or religious. 27 This evidence relates mainly 
to the communities in Palestine and Babylonia, but the 
opinion may be safely hazarded that the position elsewhere 
was not materially different. 

The woman's wisdom was to find its outlet only in the 
spindle; her function was to produce children. 28 As a girl 
in her father's house all her energy is given to menial 
domestic tasks: grinding corn, drawing water, carrying 
about her little brothers until they begin to go to school 


Their intellectual abilities will be developed, whilst hers, 
because she stays at home, will be retarded. 29 For her father 
is not obliged to teach her the Torah; even if he should 
desire it, it would be wrong for him to do so. The woman 
is naturally a light-minded and irresponsible creature, and 
her congenital incapacity might lead her to turn the study 
of the Torah into frivolity. 30 He will negotiate, even on the 
Sabbath, with a teacher for her brothers; but the only talk 
about her, perhaps on the same Sabbath day, will be how 
to marry her off more quickly. 31 And when she will be 
married and have her own children, it will not be her func- 
tion to provide for their education, or to initiate them into 
religious observances. 32 And yet it will be she who will 
take the little boys in the mornings to the school at the 
Synagogue, and this will be accounted a merit to her. 
And if her husband is a scholar, she may gain some appre- 
ciation by sitting at home of nights and waiting for him to 
return from the " house of study." 33 But, although unable 
to read, she will manage somehow to pick up a knowledge 
of the prayers and will visit the Synagogue as often as she 
can. She might even take the trouble to go to a distant 
Synagogue rather than to the one nearest her home so as 
to win an added reward for her exertions. 34 

This is the picture of the woman's social, religious and 
educational life which we are able to reconstruct from Tal- 
mudic material. One important factor in the situation was, 
it would seem, the custom of early marriage; marriage 
arrangements for girls in their infancy were not an uncom- 
mon thing. And the father's power was unlimited. *' If he 
wanted to give his daughter to a leper he could do so." 35 In 
such circumstances regular attendance at school, or even 
systematic formal education outside it, was hardly possible. 
What the closure of the school meant to the woman in an 
age when the study of the Torah was recognised as a the 
highest good" is forcibly expressed by the rabbis in the 


following: "A boy is born everybody is glad; a girl is 
born everybody is sad/' " The world cannot go on without 
males nor without females. Happy is he whose children 
are males; alas for him whose children are females." 35 

There was a close similarity between Greek and Jewish 
custom with regard to the early marriage of the girl and 
her father's unlimited power in the matter. It was at least 
partly due to this that both in Athens and in Jerusalem 
schools were reserved for boys alone. 37 It may be added 
that, with the exception of the new community in Pales- 
tine, the negative attitude to girls' education has not yet 
died out among Jews even at the present day. 

It is instructive to find that woman's position in the first 
centuries of Christianity underwent a similar process of 
development, or rather deterioration, to that described in 
the preceding pages. In the Gospels women are promi- 
nent, and in the enthusiasm of the early Christian move- 
ment they were allowed to do whatever they were fitted to 
do. But soon an ascetic current set in which deeply 
affected the position of woman in the ancient Church. As 
among Jews, she was forbidden to teach, 38 and the highest 
position left to her in the Church was that of doorkeeper 
or message-woman. The production of children was to be 
the sole object of marriage, and the main duty of the wife, 
passive obedience to her husband her lord and master. 
Some went further and considered that even marriage for 
the sake of children was a carnal indulgence, and that the 
woman was sent on earth to inflame the heart of man with 
every evil passion. 

The following extracts will show to what lengths this 
other-worldly outlook could go. Clement of Alexandria 
writes: "Nothing disgraceful is proper for man who is 
endowed with reason, much less for woman, to whom it 
brings shame to reflect of what nature she is." And Ter- 
tullian, who was aware of the religious value of marriage 



and, indeed, gave to it a beautiful expression, yet found it 
possible to write the following : " The sentence of God on 
the sex remains to this day in force, Thou (woman) art 
the gateway of Satan, thou art the opener of the fatal tree, 
the first deserter of the Divine law; thou art she who en- 
ticed him whom the Devil dared not attack. Thou didst 
thus easily break God's image which is man. . . ," 39 

These views represent one of the moods of the age, 
another one being the cynical contempt for woman of 
some Hellenistic philosophers. In the writings of the 
rabbis we find something of both these moods, but a char- 
acteristic sense of reality helped them to escape from either 
extreme. It was not, however, sufficient to save the woman 
from being denied her share in the activity on which the 
very existence of the world was declared to depend the 
study of the Torah. 40 




I. Hellenistic influence. Contrasts between the Jewish and 
the Spartan systems of education. Similarities between the 
schools of Athens and of Palestine. The " Greek " cities in 
Palestine. The Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Greek 
influence on the development of post-bibilical Hebrew. The 
Palestinian Jews were acquainted with the Hellenistic school 
organization. The pervasive influence of Hellenism. Dr. Boyd's 
view that the Jews " adopted the Hellenic institution of the 
school. " This view is an overstatement of the case. The 
necessary conditions for the rise of formal education had existed 
in Palestine before the Hellenistic period. Hellenism was only 
a factor of secondary importance. II. The father's individual 
responsibility for the instruction of his sons was the basic prin- 
ciple of Jewish education. The early school was a private and 
independent institution. General control by the community. 
Fees. Distinction between higher education and elementary 
education. Free teaching of the " Oral Law." Fees in elemen- 
tary education were not fixed. The gradual tightening of com- 
munal control. Yet ultimately the school remained a private 
venture. The effect of this system upon the education of the 
poor. Comparison with the Athenian school. 


IT will be convenient at this stage to examine in a general 
way the question of Hellenistic influence on the develop- 
ment of Jewish popular education. This will serve to 
introduce our next subject: the organisation of the early 
Jewish elementary school. 

One would not expect to find any similarity between the 
Jewish and the Spartan systems of education. These two 
were sharply opposed in every essential feature. There 
could be nothing in common between a military state 
based on slavery, which destroyed the family and aimed 



at the complete suppression of the individual; and a re- 
ligious commonwealth, as the Jewish community became 
after the destruction of the second temple, which regarded 
the family as its unit of organisation and rested on the 
foundation of the moral responsibility of the individual. 
The Spartan school was the military barracks; the Jewish 
school was from its inception a house of study and prayer 
the Synagogue. 1 

But the case is quite different with Athenian education. 
There were striking similarities between the schools of 
Athens and Palestine which, as will be shown again and 
again later on, it would be difficult to regard as mere 
coincidences. It should be borne in mind that from 
the latter part of the fourth century B.C.E. the Jews lived 
in the midst of a world which was rapidly becoming 
Hellenised at least to the extent of adopting the ex- 
ternal forms of Greek culture. During the Hellenistic 
period about thirty "Greek" cities were established in 
Palestine: along the Mediterranean coast, in Trans jordania 
and especially around the Sea of Galilee; and an attempt 
was made by Hellenised Jews immediately before the 
Maccabean revolt to establish such a "Greek" city even 
in Jerusalem itself. The organisation of these towns was 
modelled on the " city states " of Greece and, externally at 
any rate, they were centres of Greek culture, in their 
language and in their political, social and religious institu- 
tions. 2 Towards the end of the Hasmonean period large 
numbers of Jews settled in these towns, where they lived 
in close contact with the non-Jewish population. These 
Jews were natural "carriers" of Hellenistic influences. 3 
What a powerful factor Hellenistic influence was in mould- 
ing Jewish cultural, social and industrial life may be judged 
from the vast number of Greek words that have found 
their way into post-biblical Hebrew. These words are met 
with in connection with all sorts of subjects, including 

education. 4 In addition there were the communities of 
the Diaspora, of which Alexandria may be mentioned as 
an outstanding example. There Hebrew was completely 
displaced by Greek as the vernacular of the Jewish masses, 
and this created the need for the translation of the 
Scriptures into the latter language. There can be no doubt 
at all that these Jews, who lived in the midst of a Hellen- 
istic population and spoke its language, were familiar with 
Greek educational institutions. 

But even in Palestine itself it seems quite clear that the 
Jews had the opportunity to acquaint themselves at first 
hand with the Hellenistic school organisation of which 
some of them were ready to take advantage. The follow- 
ing text is significant in this respect : " One is not to hand 
over to the idolaters " (a reference to the Hellenistic 
population of the Palestinian towns) "a child for the 
purpose of teaching him letters, or a trade . . . but one 
may hand over a child to the ' Kuthim ' descendants of 
the old Samaritans for instruction in letters or in a 
trade/' 5 The need for this prohibition, which had no 
other force behind it but public opinion and religious 
sentiment, shows clearly enough that cases of Jewish 
parents sending their children to Hellenistic schools were 
not uncommon. 

In the struggle between Judaism and Hellenism the 
former held its ground. This was a foregone conclusion. 
A people like the Jews, which at that time had already 
reached a high degree of national consciousness and, long 
before it had met with the Greeks, had already produced 
men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezra, could not give up its 
individuality and simply exchange its way of life for that 
of any other people, however gifted. Yet, as we have seen, 
it was by no means proof against the pervasive influence 
of Hellenism, nor even unwilling to benefit from it. It is 
therefore important to ask how much the Jewish school 


system, as it developed during the Talmudic period, owed 
to this influence. 

Dr. Boyd, to whose "History of Western Education " 
reference has already been made, concludes his short 
chapter on Jewish education with the following words: 
"There is a curious irony in the fact that the Jews, in 
seeking to save themselves from being overborne by the 
Greek culture, should have adopted the Hellenic institution 
of the school for their children and the Hellenic practice 
of disputation for their young men. It is a striking testi- 
mony to the tremendous power of that culture that the 
one Oriental people who succeeded in freeing themselves 
from its influence did so by making use of its educational 
methods/' 6 

Dr. Boyd has rendered a valuable service to the study of 
early Jewish education by thus directing attention force- 
fully to the important factor of Hellenistic influence. As 
will be shown frequently later, many aspects that are other- 
wise obscure about the Jewish school in Talmudic times 
become intelligible by reference to this factor. Yet it is 
an overstatement of the case to say that the Jews have 
"adopted the Hellenic institution of the school." Long 
before the Hellenistic period all the conditions necessary 
for the rise of popular education were already in existence 
in Palestine. There was the potential school centre the 
Synagogue. From very early times, as was shown else- 
where, children attended the services, of which instruction 
in the form of popular lectures was the central feature. 
There was the teaching body, the "scribes," engaged in 
the actual work of teaching since the time of Ezra. It is 
significant that in later centuries the elementary school- 
master is often called by the name which denoted the 
scribe " Sopher " thus testifying to the continuity of the 
development of popular education. There was also the 
subject-matter for literary education those parts of the 


Scriptures, such as the Pentateuch, which later formed the 
staple content of instruction; and at least the beginnings 
of the liturgy, which was growing up along with the 
Synagogue. There was even the method of study which 
may be regarded as characteristic of Jewish education 
throughout the ages the reading and interpretation of a 
Scriptural text. This method was already used at the 
" Great Assembly " in the time of Nehemiah. 7 The com- 
bination of these elements into an organised school was a 
natural and inevitable development. It could be accelerated 
or retarded by external factors of a political or military 
nature. Its inspiration and its driving force came from 

Moreover, even as an external factor Hellenistic influence 
was only of secondary importance. The turning-point in 
the history of Jewish popular education was the disastrous 
Roman war which terminated in 70 C.E, with the destruc- 
tion of the temple. It was after that, and even more so 
after the abortive rebellion of Bar-Kochba, 132-135 C.E., 
that the centre of gravity of Jewish communal life was 
shifted from the political to the spiritual plane, where it 
has remained down to the present day. It was then that the 
people concentrated on the work of education, the chief 
weapon in its struggle for existence as a separate entity. 
During the three centuries following the Roman war 
popular education spread rapidly throughout Jewry; it 
became almost universal for boys by the time the Hellen- 
istic schools of the classical world had fallen into decay. 


The preceding discussion will help us to a better under- 
standing of the development of Jewish education as a 
social institution. The basis of organisation of the Jewish 
elementary school, its venue and equipment, its internal 


arrangements, all present rather suggestive similarities with 
the Greek school, as we shall presently see. This, perhaps 
not unnaturally, led to an over-emphasised view of the 
extent of Hellenistic influence. On the other hand, the 
great majority of historians, with much less justification, 
altogether fail to take notice of the Hellenistic factor. 8 It 
is this latter view, which treats of Jewish education in 
isolation from the general movement of educational 
thought, that is largely responsible for the state of stag- 
nation in which the study of our subject has remained for 
so long. It will be our endeavour in describing the early 
organisation of the Jewish school system to preserve the 
right balance between the two extremes. Whilst attention 
will be mainly directed to the development from within, 
an effort will be made to appraise external influences at 
their proper value. 

The basic principle of Jewish education was the father's 
individual responsibility for the instruction of his children, 
or, more correctly, his sons. The well-known Deuteronomic 
injunction about teaching the Commandments to the 
children was popularly interpreted to mean: "And you 
yourselves shall teach your children/' 9 This individual- 
istic principle dominated Jewish education, as far as its 
material organisation was concerned, throughout the 
Talmudic period and for long afterwards. The community 
did not attempt to take the place of the father, nor, for a 
long time, did it even come to his assistance in any manner. 
The school in its earliest stage was a private and in- 
dependent institution. There were certain restrictions im- 
posed upon it by custom or public opinion, such, for 
instance, as that no woman or unmarried person was 
allowed to teach in it. 10 Beyond such general control the 
community did not interfere. Anyone who considered 
himself qualified to do so would set up "school" in his 
own house in the same manner as other people would set 


up as tailors or tanners. 11 The pupils had to pay fees, and 
the teacher could refuse admission to those unable to do 
so. In the third century C.E. we read of a legendary 
teacher-saint who claimed that he admitted to his school 
the poor as well as the rich, and that he took nothing from 
those who were unable to pay. 13 The average, less saintly, 
teacher was obliged to adopt a more materialistic standard 
of conduct. Not until a century later do we hear of a 
ruling that communal assistance was in certain cases to be 
given to a teacher; but this was only for the purpose of 
engaging an assistant. 13 

It is necessary to underline the distinction between 
higher education, the teaching of the "Oral Law" to 
adults, and elementary education for children. The rabbis 
strongly insisted on the free teaching of the " Oral Law." 14 
This was primarily intended to help the promotion of a 
knowledge of the Torah. It may have also been meant to 
counteract the spread among Jews of the practice of the 
Sophistic teachers, who charged fees and competed for 
pupils. 15 Their practice was suitable for Greece, or later 
for Rome, where a course of study might result in im- 
mediate material benefit for the learner, such as success in 
public life through effective oratory. Conditions in Pales- 
tine after 70 C.E., or in the Babylonian communities, were 
very different. There were no political "prizes" to be 
gained as a result of learning, except, of course, for the 
general respect which a scholar enjoyed and some minor 
privileges, such as immunity from certain forms of taxa- 
tion. 16 The chief aim of education, and especially of its 
higher forms, was the preservation of the people under 
peculiarly adverse conditions. This aim could be achieved 
only if learning were regarded as an ultimate value, as 
something worth while for its own sake, and not for any 
material benefits it might bring. Hence the great stress 
in rabbinical literature on "study for its own sake" 


"Torah lishemah." "Of the greatest sages of Israel/* 
Maimonides tells us, "some were hewers of wood, others 
were drawers of water, whilst some were blind, yet they 
engaged in the study of the Torah day and night." 17 
Allowing for some exaggeration, this is a fair enough de- 
scription of the conditions of higher Jewish learning in 
Talinudic times, when the scholar usually combined the 
pursuit of knowledge with the practice of some trade. 18 

But higher learning was the privilege of a small 
minority, whilst elementary education aimed at embracing 
the whole male population, and it would have been a hope- 
less task to attempt to build up a general school system 
on the work of voluntary teachers. Besides, elementary 
teaching was, as we shall see later, a full-time occupation, 
demanding all the teacher's time as well as all his energy. It 
was therefore generally agreed that the teacher was to be 
paid, if not for the actual teaching of the Torah, then at 
least, it was argued, for taking care of the children during 
the time they were in his charge. 19 

The fees were not apparently at a fixed rate. It was a 
matter for a private arrangement between the father and 
the teacher, who were permitted to conduct their negotia- 
tions even on the Sabbath, the amount depending upon 
the economic position of the parents and, presumably, also 
upon the standing of the teacher. A man's earnings, we 
are told in a characteristic passage, are fixed in heaven at 
the beginning of every year, except for his expenses on 
Sabbaths and festivals, and on the education of his 
children. If he spends more on these, his allowance is in- 
creased accordingly; if he spends less, it is reduced. 20 

Gradually, communal control and supervision of elemen- 
tary education became more effective. In the fourth 
century C.E. we find the teacher spoken of as a sort of public 
servant, who was called to his task by the community and 
could be removed from his post for inefficiency or neglect 


of duty. 21 But even then it was a control without re- 
sponsibility. It was a peculiar kind of arrangement in 
which the community had all the advantages and the 
teacher hardly any. He had to carry on his work under 
the vigilant eye of the communal heads, who demanded of 
him knowledge, ability and devotion to duty. Yet for his 
living he had to depend upon the fees he could get from 
his pupils. For ultimately the school remained the private 
venture of the teacher, just as the education of his child 
was the individual responsibility of the father. The com- 
munity supervised the work of the one and stimulated the 
sense of duty of the other; beyond that it did not go 
until long after the close of the Talmudic period. 

Under such a system much would depend upon the 
parents' inclination, and even more upon their material 
position. The rich would provide for their children an 
education consistent with their social position, sending 
them to the best schools, or engaging for them well-known 
private teachers. The poor, who could not afford to pay 
the necessary fees, would attempt to teach their own chil- 
dren, or leave them untaught. In the earlier period there 
were large numbers of such children left without any 
education. These formed the unlettered class to which 
reference has already been made. But even in later times, 
when elementary education became practically general for 
boys, the poor would still have to be content with less 
efficient teachers, or else would be forced to withdraw their 
children from school sooner than they might desire. 

Now it is rather instructive to find that in its essential 
features, as described in the preceding pages, Jewish ele- 
mentary education in the period under discussion bore a 
close resemblance to Athenian education. In Athens also 
the education of the boy was his father's individual re- 
sponsibility and the school was essentially the private ven- 
ture of the teacher, controlled and supervised more or less 


strictly by the state. " The teachers opened the schools as 
private enterprises, fixing for themselves the fees and the 
subjects which they taught. The parents chose what they 
thought a suitable school according to their means and the 
subjects which they wished their sons to learn. . . . The 
poor may frequently have passed on their knowledge of 
letters to their sons without the expense of a school. But 
all this was a private transaction between parent and 
teacher. The state interfered with the matter only so far 
as to impose certain moral regulations on the schools/' 
"The state attitude towards education . . . may be sum- 
marised in the words of Socrates to Alcibiades : ' No one, 
so to speak, cares a straw how you or any other Athenian 
is brought up.' " 22 

The Jewish community could not, if it were to survive, 
adopt such a passive attitude. It was also obliged to exer- 
cise a more rigid control over the content of education. 
These, however, were only differences of degree; the basic 
principles of organisation were the same in Jerusalem as in 

There can be no doubt that the Jews learned much, con- 
sciously and unconsciously, from the Hellenistic school 
organisation. It was only natural that educational prac- 
tices current among the non-Jewish population of Palestine 
should flow over into the Jewish communities, and this is, 
of course, even more true of the Diaspora, especially of 
such communities as that in Alexandria, with whom the 
Palestine Jews were in constant and regular communi- 

It is, however, necessary to bear in mind that the form 
of educational organisation described here was the only 
possible one in the social and political conditions of those 
times, whether in Greece or Judea. The compulsory and 
universal system of education is, of course, entirely a pro- 
duct of the modern national state. Many centuries had to 


pass after the Hellenistic period before humanity was ripe 
for such an advance. 

Moreover, in the conditions of Jewish life as these 
developed after the fall of the state, and in many respects 
continued ever since, this semi-private type of school was 
the only practicable form of organisation. The com- 
munities were constantly exposed to interference from the 
outside which often took a violent form. The danger of 
persecution and expulsion was ever present. The Jews were 
gradually becoming " the wandering people." Under such 
conditions a complex and elaborate school organisation was 
neither possible nor even desirable. What was required 
was a school of a simple, mobile character, which closed 
one day and opened somewhere else the following day. 
And so it was to hard experience, more than to conscious 
imitation of existing models, that the Jews owed the form 
of school organisation which continued among them down 
to current times. 23 



L How the elementary school was housed. The later Tal- 
mudic period. The earlier period. The Synagogue as " the 
people's house." II. The equipment of the school. The 
pupils probably sat on the ground. The tablet and the stylus. 
The pointer. The strap. Comparison with the Athenian school. 
The tradition about Rabbi Akiba. III. Books. The advan- 
tage of the Greek school over the Jewish. The Greek boy could 
make his own books from his teacher's dictation. This method 
was barred to the Jewish boy. The Bible was the only book 
available. The scarcity and costliness of books. Illustrations 
from the Talmud. The reverence for books. Portions of the 
Bible were made into special scrolls for the use of children. 

ALMOST all the writers on the early history of Jewish 
education tell us that the home of the elementary school 
was generally in the Synagogue, although children were 
sometimes taught in the teacher's private house. Some 
even state simply that the school was always held in the 
Synagogue. Thus, for example, we find in a recent book 
the following categorical statement: "If we consider the 
Talmudic texts which speak of the teaching of children, 
we will find everywhere that it was in the Synagogue/' 1 
Now the evidence adduced by this writer, as well as by 
some others, seems formidable enough. Nevertheless, his 
statement cannot be accepted in the absolute form in which 
it is expressed. It is true for the latter part of the Talmudic 
period that is, from about the end of the second century 
C.E.; it is quite incorrect for earlier times. 
The available texts bearing on this question may be 



readily divided into those belonging to the earlier, or 
Mishnaic period; and others which reflect the conditions 
of the later or post-Mishnaic period. 2 On analysis it will 
be found that the latter invariably speak of the elementary 
school as being part of the Synagogue, or even identify 
these two institutions. A few typical examples will suffice 
to illustrate the point. 

Said Rav to Rabbi Hiyya, " How do women gain merit? 
By making their children learn the Scriptures in the 
Synagogue and their husbands learn the 'Oral Law* in 
the ' house of study. 5 " 3 

Raba said, " Since the reform of Joshua ben Gamala we 
do not transfer a child for the purposes of education 
from one town to another, but w r e may do so from one 
Synagogue to another." 4 

Rav Aha, son of Raba, said to Rav Ashi, " If one needs 
to call a man out of the Synagogue" which one may 
enter only for the purpose of prayer or study " he should 
ask a child, who is studying there, to tell him his verse." 5 
" Once a man came into the Synagogue and found an ele- 
mentary teacher and his son sitting there," etc. 6 

It will be observed that these texts, to which many more 
of a similar nature could be added, simply speak of the 
Synagogue as the place for the teaching of children. The 
older term for the school ("beth hasepher") is not men- 
tioned : the school is completely merged in the Synagogue. 7 
Now compare these with the following texts, which all 
clearly bear the stamp of an earlier period. 

"Once a certain person spoke casually, saying, 'I re- 
member when I was a child riding on my father's shoulder. 
I was fetched from the school (" beth hasepher "), stripped, 
and made to bath for the purpose of legal purification 
in order that I might eat the "priests' portion" in the 
evening/ On the strength of his own words Rabbi de- 
clared him to be a priest." 8 


" It happened that the son of Gorgias of Lydda ran away 
from school ('beth hasepher') and his father threatened 
him. So he took fright and committed suicide by throw- 
ing himself into a pit. They then came to consult Rabbi 
Tarphon," etc. 9 

"Rabbi Meir says, '. . . This may be compared to a 
teacher who came to school ("beth hasepher") with a 
strap in his hand. Who would be afraid? He who was 
flogged every day would be afraid/ " 10 

" If one of the inhabitants of a courtyard desires to set 
up as a doctor ... or as an elementary teacher, the other 
inhabitants may object." 

" The inhabitants of a lane may compel one another not 
to allow a tailor, or a tanner, or an elementary teacher, or 
any other artisan to settle among them." 11 

It will be seen that in these passages, all belonging to the 
earlier or Mishnaic period, the school appears under its 
own name " beth hasepher " and is spoken of as an in- 
dependent institution. The Synagogue is not even men- 
tioned in connection with it. It should also be noticed that 
elementary education is treated as a private venture, and 
the teacher is dealt with in the same manner as other 
tradesmen, such as the tailor, the tanner, or the doctor. 

Now, it is not intended to suggest here that in the earlier 
period the Synagogue never served as a place for the teach- 
ing of children. The position was very likely much the 
same as in Greece. There, we are told, in the early days, 
and in poor towns, the place of teaching was not well 
appointed. In many places teaching in the open air pre- 
vailed, or teachers took advantage, especially in hot 
weather, of colonnades or shady corners among public 
buildings. 12 The Jewish teacher, too, there is reason to 
believe,* sometimes had to do his work in the open air 
and, like his Greek colleague, would occasionally make use 
* See A. Buchler, J.Q.R., vol. iv., 1913-14. 


of some public place, such as the Synagogue, although 
judging from the available evidence this was quite un- 

But in the meantime, whilst the elementary school was 
seeking after a suitable form of organisation, the Syna- 
gogue gradually grew in importance until it became, after 
the fall of the state, the centre of the religious and social 
life of the community. The uneducated classes called it 
"the people's house/' This name did not please the 
scholars, one of whom applied to it EzekieFs expression, 
"a little sanctuary." 13 Yet only a title like "people's 
house" could adequately describe an institution which 
came to combine within itself such a variety of functions. 
For it gradually absorbed most of the social and religious 
activities of the community. Besides being a house of 
prayer, it was also, as will be remembered, a house of study 
for adults; a place for the administration of justice; 
and in addition, it apparently served as a hostel for way- 
farers. 14 It was but natural that such a vital service as ele- 
mentary education should also find its home in this com- 
munal centre. And so we find that the later Talmudic 
texts make no reference to the school as a separate institu- 
tion; it was completely absorbed by the Synagogue. But 
this meant more than the mere provision of more or less 
uniform buildings and equipment and the consequent 
greater facilities for the spread of the elementary school. 
It represented a higher stage in the development of public 
control over education. The teacher became, in many re- 
spects, a public official, and was liable to suffer dismissal 
for the neglect of his duties. Yet withal the principle of 
organisation remained essentially the same as before. As 
in Athens so also in Judea, or later in the Babylonian com- 
munities, public control over the school carried with it no 
responsibility for its maintenance, and the teacher was still 
dependent for his livelihood on the fees paid by the pupils. 


To sum up : In the earlier period that is, up to about 
the end of the second century C.E. the elementary school 
was not, except in rare cases, housed in the Synagogue. 
Like the Hellenistic school, it was entirely a private enter- 
prise, and the teaching was usually carried on in the 
teacher's home. The turning-point took place some time 
in the second century, most likely after the abortive rebel- 
lion of Bar-Kochba. The community began to exercise 
greater control over education, and the Synagogue, gradu- 
ally developing into a centre for all important communal 
activities, absorbed also the elementary school. After 
200 C.E. the elementary school is always identified with the 


It is not easy to piece together into a coherent picture 
the scattered references in Talmudic literature to the equip- 
ment of the school. It would seem that in the Academy, 
or high school, the students sat during their lessons. It is 
not, however, certain whether on benches or on the ground. 
Thus we read in one place : " From the days of Moses until 
the time of Rabban Gamaliel people studied the Torah 
only in a standing position. With the death of Rabban 
Gamaliel a weakness came down into the world, and people 
sat when learning the Torah." 15 Elsewhere we are told that 
three rows of scholars sat before the Synhedrion, or high 
court of justice; to which the authoritative explanation is 
given that the "great ones" that is, the sages sat on 
benches whilst the students sat on the ground. 16 This 
seems to be confirmed by the well-known passage in the 
" Ethics of the Fathers " : " Let thy home be a meeting- 
house for the wise; sit amidst the dust of their feet and 
drink their words with thirst." In a curious text of a later 
period we find a rather emphatic statement on this point. 
"If someone comes in to you, saying, 'Teach me the 


Talmud/ do so, if you can; if not, send him away at once. 
And let Mm not sit before you either on a chair or on a 
bench, but let him sit before you on the ground." 17 On 
the other hand, a scholar of the third century C.E. gives it 
as his view, supporting it from a biblical text, that no dis- 
tinction must be made between teacher and pupil: they 
must both sit either on a couch or on the ground. 18 The 
inference seems to be justified that there was no uniform 
practice. The teacher sat on a bench whilst the students 
more commonly sat on the ground, although there were 
apparently some who preferred standing to a sitting posture 
with nothing to lean back on. 19 

As to the elementary school there are numerous indica- 
tions, mainly from the later period, pointing to the fact 
that the pupils were seated, most probably on the ground. 
The phrase in the Song of Songs, " the pomegranates bud 
forth/' is applied to "children who sit and study the 
Torah, and sit in rows like the seeds of pomegranates." 20 
But as the teaching was individual the pupil probably had 
to stand up when doing his turn and then go back to sit 
in his place. 21 

The scroll was apparently held on the knees. There is 
evidence for it in the following text, which is interesting 
also for other considerations. "... This may be likened 
to a man who had a young son. When his father left him 
and went out to the market-place, he got up and took the 
scroll and put it between his knees and studied it. Then 
the father returned and said, ' See my young son, whom I 
left when I went out to the market-place, what did he do? 
He got up and took the scroll and put it between his knees 
and sat and learned it/ " 32 The scroll spoken of here evi- 
dently refers to the special scroll for the use of school- 
children. As we shall see later it was not considered proper 
to place on the knees the ordinary " scroll of the law " 
the "Sepher Torah/' 


Of other equipment we have several references to the 
wax-tablet and the stylus, both used in the teaching of the 
alphabet. These instruments, it may be mentioned, are 
denoted by Hebrew words. For other writing materials, 
however, many words were borrowed from Greek and 
simply transcribed into Hebrew, but these are not found 
in connection with the elementary school. 23 

The pointer was apparently universally used in the teach- 
ing of reading. In one of the legends about the rebellion 
of Bar-Kochba we read as follows : " There were 400 Syna- 
gogues in the city of Bethar; in every one of these there 
were 400 elementary teachers; every one of these had before 
him 400 pupils. When enemies entered there they pierced 
them with their pointers. But when the enemy Hadrian 

prevailed, they wrapped them in their scrolls and burned 

them in fire." 24 It is hardly necessary to add that the 
ubiquitous strap was also found in the Jewish school of 
Talmudic times, where it replaced the biblical rod. 25 

The following description of the internal arrangements 
of the Athenian school will be of some interest at this 
point. "The master sat on a high seat, from which he 
taught. The scholars often sat on the ground ... or else 
they stood or occupied benches round him. . . . We may 
be sure that there were no tables or desks, such furniture 
being unusual in Greek houses. It was the universal cus- 
tom, while reading or writing, to hold the book or roll on 
the knee." There, too, the pupil had apparently to stand 
up when taking his turn. On the vases and pictures we 
only see single boys mostly standing before their master to 
receive their lesson. 26 It should be remembered that in 
the Greek school as in the Jewish school instruction was 
individual, given to each pupil in his turn, the technique 
of class-teaching being quite a modern discovery. 

The tablet and stylus were, of course, also used in the 
Greek school, but for the teaching of writing. Thus we 


read in Protagoras: "... In learning to write, the 
writing master first draws lines with a stylus for the use 
of the young learner, and gives him the tablet, and makes 
him follow the lines." 27 The Jewish school In later 
Talmudic times, as will be shown elsewhere, did not as a 
rule teach any writing. 

The story about Rabbi Akiba, the famous sage and 
spiritual leader during the rebellion of Bar-Kochba in 
132-135 C.E., will serve to illustrate several of the points dis- 
cussed in the preceding pages. It is, besides, of consider- 
able importance for the history of the development of 
elementary education in general, and will be referred to 
again in later chapters. 

" What was the beginning of Rabbi Akiba? It is said 
that when he was already forty years old, he had not yet 
learned anything. Once, when he stood by a well he 
asked, 'Who bored out that stone?' So they told him, 
' Akiba, did you not read (in Job), " the waters wear away 
the stone '*? The water which steadily falls on it did it/ 
Immediately Rabbi Akiba began to argue with himself, 
saying, 'If a soft thing, like the water, could hew out a 
hard thing, like the stone, then the words of the Torah, 
which are as hard as iron, will certainly bore through my 
heart, which is only flesh and blood!' Then he and his 
son went and sat before an elementary teacher and Rabbi 
Akiba said to him, 'Teach me the Torah/ So Rabbi 
Akiba held one end of the tablet and his son the other 
end. And the teacher wrote for him 'aleph-beth' that 
is, the letters in their regular order and he learned 
it. Then he wrote for him * aleph-taw/ 28 and he learned 
that also. After that he went and sat alone, asking him- 
self, why was this * aleph ' written? Why was this * beth ' 
written? So he went on studying until he finished all the 
Torah/' 29 



How did the Jewish elementary school of those days 
stand with regard to the most important part of school 
equipment textbooks? In this matter the Greek school 
was more advantageously placed than the Jewish school. 
It is true that in Athens there were no school books as we 
know them. But the Greek boy could write down literary 
matter from his master's dictation and so make his own 
books. In spite of all its inconvenience, this method would 
not be considered by the modern teacher as entirely devoid 
of merit. To the Jewish pupil this method was barred. 
The only book used in the Jewish elementary school was 
the Hebrew Bible; everything else had to be learned en- 
tirely by heart. But the Bible, and especially the Penta- 
teuch, was invested with such sanctity, and the manner of 
writing it was surrounded with such restrictions, that there 
was no question of a boy attempting to do it. Books, or 
rather scrolls, had, therefore, to be bought, whether by the 
pupils or the teacher it is not easy to say. But the cost was 
so high that it must have been beyond the reach of large 
numbers of people. Thus we read of one who lost a scroll 
of the law which he had bought for a hundred rninas a 
very large sum however calculated. In his anxiety he 
walked round and round the temple hill until he was in- 
formed that the scroll had been recovered. 30 In the Baby- 
lonian communities scrolls were apparently no cheaper. 
We read, for example, that a stolen scroll was sold for 
eighty zuzim, the buyer selling it again for one hundred 
and twenty; or that a thick woollen garment and three 
single copies of the Psalms, Job, and Proverbs, all old ones, 
were calculated to be worth five minas. 31 

In these circumstances scrolls were naturally scarce, and 
this scarcity was a very serious factor affecting every de- 
partment of the educational life of those days. We shall 


see later that the development of methods of teaching was 
largely conditioned by this factor. Numerous passages 
bear eloquent testimony, directly and indirectly, to the 
costliness and scarcity of books. " He who has found books 
must not use them for the purpose of studying a new pas- 
sage, nor may someone else study along with him. He may 
not read a portion and repeat it, nor read a portion and 
translate . , . and three people may not read together in 
one volume." 32 It was apparently not unusual for two or 
three people to study together in one scroll. A scholar of 
the fourth century, in dealing with this subject, simply 
explains : " Books are uncommon." " One must not sell a. 
scroll of the To rah except for the purpose of studying or 
marriage." The verse in Psalm cxii., "His righteousness 
endureth for ever," is applied by a rabbi of the third cen- 
tury to a man who writes the books of the Bible and lends 
them to others. 33 

The reverence with which the books of the Bible were 
treated, and which must have had its effects on the daily 
work of the school, is vividly shown by the following: 
" He who sells his scroll of the law, even when he has no 
need of it, will never see a sign of blessing." " One must 
not put a scroll of the Torah on his knees . , * nor on a 
chair . . . but one must hold it in his hands reverently 
and read it." "One must not sit on a couch when the 
Book is on it. Once Rabbi EHezer sat down on a couch on 
which there was a scroll, so he jumped up as if stung by a 
snake." 34 On the other hand, we find that the Book of 
Esther, whose canonicity was considered doubtful at a late 
period, was treated less respectfully. It was also cheaper 
and could be written to order for one zuz. 35 

Apart from the complete scrolls of the Pentateuch there 
were also smaller ones containing only single books. We 
find also "Books of Haphtaroth," probably consisting of 
the prophetic portions read in the Synagogue. The former 


were not to be used in the Synagogue, but there was no 
uniform practice as to the latter. Both kinds were very 
likely used in the school. 36 

As to special books made for the use of children, it is 
not easy to obtain a clear picture from the conflicting 
evidence before us. The practice apparently varied in 
different ages and in different places. Certain portions of 
the Bible which occupied a prominent place in the liturgy 
were written out in special scrolls. Thus we read of scrolls 
containing the three paragraphs of the " Shema " : Deuter- 
onomy vi. 4-9, xi. 13-21; Numbers xv. 37-41; and the 
" Hallel " : Psalms cxiii.-cxviii. Their use was not looked 
upon with favour by the religious leaders of the community. 
This question was debated in the second century C.E. in 
Palestine and again in the fourth century in Babylonia. 
It was evidently a matter which continually thrust itself 
upon public attention. One may imagine that the teachers, 
forced by the needs of school work, raised the issue again 
and again, and compelled the religious leaders to make 
certain concessions. The prohibition to make these scrolls 
contained a loophole: one might write out only a portion 
of a book, if he intended to complete it at another time. 
There can be little doubt that teachers made use of this 
provision. One rabbi of the second century C.E. permits 
the making of such sectional scrolls and marks their limits 
thus: in Genesis, the first five chapters; in Leviticus, the 
first eight chapters. 37 



I. Pre-school training at home. The age of three was the 
starting-point for education. The entrance age to the school. 
The leaving age. Resemblance to Greek practice. II. School 
hours. Holidays. The long hours were due to the fact of indi- 
vidual teaching. III. The teacher's qualifications. Strict 
supervision by the religious heads of the community. Com- 
munal control did not imply comfortable living. The social 
status of the elementary teacher. The position in Greece and 
Rome. The different character of Jewish education. The dis- 
tinction between higher and elementary education. The " sun " 
and the " stars." The elementary schoolmaster was usually 
accorded the last place among communal officers. 

BOTH the Bible and the Talmud frequently speak of the 
moral and religious training given to children in the home. 
In strictly religious houses this training would "begin very 
early in life almost at birth. The phrase "A boy who 
has reached the age of training" is often met with in 
Talmudic literature, but this, as will be shown later, did 
not mean a fixed point coinciding with a certain physical 
age. It was rather an " intelligence age," varying with in- 
dividual differences and also with the nature of the parti- 
cular subject for which the training was required. 

Even after the school became a popular institution, the 
religious training given to a child at home included the 
rudiments of a literary education, except for reading and 
writing. "When the child begins to speak his father 
should speak to him in the 'holy tongue' (Hebrew) and 
teach him the Torah, If he does not speak to him in the 
'holy tongue' and teach him the Torah, it is as if he 



buries him." "Three years the child is unable to con- 
verse, but in the fourth year his father consecrates him to 
the Torah." And again, " As soon as a child is able to 
speak his father teaches him the * Shema ' and the Torah 
and the ' holy tongue '; if he does not do so, it would have 
been better for him not to have been bom." Of the 
patriarch Abraham we are told in a well-known legend 
that he recognised his Creator at the age of three. 1 The 
recurrence in these texts of the " age of three " shows that 
it was considered the starting-point both for a practical 
religious training as well as for the beginning of a literary 
education. It should, however, be noted that the father is 
generally spoken of as the natural teacher, and that the 
school is not mentioned. 

As to formal education, or the entrance age to the 
elementary school, there was no strictly uniform practice. 
In the early period, when the school was an entirely private 
institution and pupils met in their teacher's house, there 
could, of course, be no fixed entrance age. Parents would 
send their children to some teacher if and when convenient 
by private arrangement. This would depend not only on 
their inclination, but upon the existing facilities in a given 
district and, also, upon their ability to pay the required 
fees. At an important rabbinical synod held in the middle 
of the second century C.E. it was enacted that " A father 
should deal patiently with his son up to the age of twelve, 
after which he should cease to support him." This is in- 
terpreted as meaning that up to the age of twelve the father 
should treat leniently his son's unwillingness to learn; after 
that age the child must be forced. If this interpretation is 
correct, it would show that even in observant houses 
children started their studies at any age up to twelve. 2 

Later on, when the school came to be looked upon as a 
communal institution and usually met in the Synagogue, 
the entrance age became more regular, although it was 


never rigid: some would send their children when they 
reached the age of five; others would wait until they were 
six or seven. This latter entrance age, it may he remem- 
bered, is given in the tradition which ascribes the founda- 
tion of the elementary school to Joshua ben Gamala. On 
the other hand, there is the oft-quoted passage in the 
" Ethics of the Fathers " which states as follows : " At five 
years, for the Bible; at ten, for the Mishnah; at thirteen, 
for the observance of commandments; at fifteen, for the 
Talmud; at eighteen, for marriage/' 3 This, however, is not 
meant to be taken as a regulation, or as a description of 
existing conditions. It does not offer us a scheme for 
formal education, but describes what it considers to be the 
stages of development of a human being from childhood 
to old age : At five years a child is fit, or ripe, for the study 
of the Bible; at ten, for the study of the Mishnah, etc. 

From the third century C.E. we have the advice given by 
an educational reformer to a teacher: "Do not admit a 
child under the age of six; from that age and onwards 
admit him, and cram him like an ox." The same entrance 
age is recommended a century later by another scholar. 
This, it may be concluded, was the generally accepted view 
in the later Talmudic period. In post-Talmudic times the 
entrance age was gradually lowered, and still later it was not 
uncommon for a child of four, or even younger, to be sent 
to school. The reason given was that since Talmudic times 
abilities deteriorated and it was therefore necessary for 
children to start earlier. 4 

As to the leaving age there is no direct evidence. It is, 
however, very likely that it was thirteen, when a lad 
assumes responsibility for the observance of command- 
ments. Of Jacob and Esau we are told : " All the thirteen 
years both of them went to school and came back from 
school; after the age of thirteen one of them went to the 
'house of study/ the other to the houses of idolatry." 5 


In the same place we read : "A man should engage himself 
with his son until the age o thirteen; after that he should 
say, "Blessed be He who has absolved me from respon- 
sibility for this boy/ " & It would seem that at the age of 
thirteen a boy would leave his elementary school either to 
engage in some work or to proceed to a higher education. 
But this would depend on many conditions and, mainly, on 
the parents' economic positon. Thirteen was the leaving 
age in post-Talmudic times, and is so now for the majority 
of Jewish children in so far as formal religious education 
is concerned. 

In this connection, too, it is noteworthy, the conditions 
were very similar to those obtaining in the Greek school. 
For Greek boys also school life usually began when they 
were about six years old, the exact age being left to the 
parents' choice. Before this they learnt in the nursery 
the various current fables and ballads and the national 
mythology. Moral training began as soon as the child 
understood what was said. Among the Greeks, as among 
the Jews, the economic positon of the parents was the de- 
termining factor. In a school system which was essen- 
tially voluntary, having no other authority behind it but 
public opinion, and which maintained itself by the fees 
of the pupils, it could not be otherwise. The sons o rich 
parents in Athens went to school earliest; their poorer 
fellow-citizens went later. Again, the poor could not keep 
their sons at school for a long time as they needed their 
services at home, and the fees were a burden, so they sent 
them only when they were old enough to pick up instruc- 
tion quickly. Whilst the rich, to whom money was no 
object, sent their boys to school at an age when they could 
do little more than look on while their elders worked. 7 It 
should be added that among the Jews of Talmudic times, 
as probably also amongst the Greeks, there were some who 
failed to send their children to school altogether, either for 


lack of facilities or on account of the " burden " of fees. 
Communal schools for the poor did not come into existence 
until post-Talmudic times. 


School hours in Talmudic times were long and intervals 
were apparently unknown at least for the teacher. Chil- 
dren began their lessons early, at sunrise, or even before, 
and spent the whole day at school, returning home only 
in the evening. 8 Thus we read of a question, addressed to 
a scholar of the third century, whether village children may 
come to town, for the purpose of attending school, before 
dawn and return home after dark without danger from evil 
spirits. His characteristic answer was that he felt sure about 
their safety in coming to school : the good deed would pro- 
tect them; but he was doubtful about their going back. 9 
Elsewhere we read of a scholar of the fourth century C.E. 
who used to take his boy to school before he himself had his 
breakfast; and of another one who did so even before he had 
arranged his headdress properly. 10 The institution of the 
pedagogue was unknown among Jews, who would not rele- 
gate such an important religious duty as attending to a 
child's education to a slave, as the Greeks usually did. It was 
either the father, or more often the mother, who took the 
boys to school. The practice of studying also during part 
of the night, which is stated by Maimonides 11 to be the 
law, may be derived indirectly from certain Talmudic texts 
which suggest that children began night-study after the 
fifteenth of Ab roughly about the middle of August. 12 
In later ages it was the general custom for children to 
remain in school for some hours in the evening during the 
winter months. 

We do not hear directly of any holidays, although it 
may be assumed that on certain days (such, for instance, 
as the major festivals, or the fast of the ninth of Ab, 


which marks the destruction of the temple) lessons 
were not given. One modern writer on the subject, 
after stating that " on Fridays the work done during the 
week was revised/' goes on to say that " vacations occurred 
on days preceding the Sabbaths, feasts, and holidays, and 
on fast days/' and that " there was also a cessation of in- 
struction on the three days preceding Pentecost, on the 
half-days of Hanukkah (feast of Dedication), on New Moon, 
and on the fifteenth of Ab and Shebat." 13 This is quite a 
respectable list of holidays which would bear comparison 
with that of some modern schools. It is apparently based 
on Maimonides and on later custom. But it is misleading 
to give it as the practice of the school in Talmudic times, 
for which it is difficult to find any evidence. On the con- 
trary, there is reason for saying that, at least in the earlier 
period, it was not uncommon for children to receive in- 
struction even on a Friday evening, and also on the Sab- 
bath when the lesson was to consist only of revision. The 
following incident is significant in this connection. Rav 
the famous scholar and educational reformer of the third 
century once found a well-known teacher standing in his 
garden. So he asked him : " Have you broken faith with 
your pupils?" The answer was: "For thirteen years I 
have not seen this garden; and even now my mind is with 
the pupils/' The faithful teacher had no respite from his 
duties. 14 

Long hours for the teachers, if not for the pupils, was the 
rule of those times, and was probably due to the fact that 
the teaching was individual and every pupil had to get his 
turn. In Athens also, according to the laws of Solon, 
schoolmasters were forbidden to open their schools before 
sunrise, and were ordered to close them before sunset 
that is, the schools were open from dawn to dark. These 
limits were imposed only because the lawgiver was sus- 
picious of the empty streets and of the <iarkne$s. But the 


Greek teacher and his pupils were rather more fortunate 
in the matter of holidays. For although they had no free 
Saturdays and Sundays, or long vacations, about ninety 
festival and other state holidays served to "break the con- 
tinuity of instruction. 15 


An unimpeachable moral and religious character was an 
essential qualification for a teacher. " If the teacher can be 
compared to an angel of the Lord of Hosts, the Torah may 
be sought at his mouth; if not, the Torah may not be 
sought at his mouth." This, it is explained, applies par- 
ticularly to the elementary teacher. 16 He was further 
expected to have such zeal and devotion to Ms duties 
as to give himself entirely to his pupils, and ta possess 
almost boundless patience. "The impatient man can- 
not be a teacher/' was an accepted rule. 17 He was also to 
be of a suitable age that is, not too young and to be 
married. A woman was not allowed to engage in teach- 
ing. 18 It goes without saying that a good knowledge of the 
subjects he had to teach was a necessary qualification. And 
it should be borne in rnind that in those times when the 
Scriptures, the principal subject of the elementary school, 
had to be taught without the help of a vowel system; and 
the liturgy, another important subject, was unwritten and 
in a state of flux, it was by no means an easy matter to 
acquire this qualification. In Athens, we are told, there 
was no official or state test of a master's qualifications; each 
man set up on his private account, and it depended on the 
reputation he made whether his school was well attended. 1 * 
This would be true also of Palestine in the earlier period. 
Later on, with the development of public control over edu- 
cation, the teacher was under the strict supervision of the 
religious heads of the community. He could be dismissed 
without warning, losing his position, and, presumably, his 



livelihood. The waste of children's time through the 
teacher's neglect of his duty was considered to be an irre- 
coverable loss. In a late source we are told hyperbolically 
that to exchange greetings with a teacher is like worship- 
ping idols as it causes interruption in his work! 20 

But communal control did not apparently imply either 
a comfortable or even a secure living for the teacher. He 
was a public servant and a private individual at one and 
the same time, but only in respect of the disadvantages in- 
cidental to both. From certain Talmudic references it may 
be gathered that he was usually poor enough to be over- 
looked by the King's tax-collectors. Sometimes he was, or 
had to be, a man of many parts, combining the offices 
of preacher, judge, beadle, and teacher. 21 

In Greece the teacher's calling was not such as to give 
him either dignity or self-respect. To call a man a teacher 
was almost an insult, and even his own pupils treated him 
with contempt. In Rome the position was even worse. 
The teachers of elementary schools were socially de- 
spised. Indeed, so many slaves and freed men were em- 
ployed as teachers that this could not have been other- 
wise. 22 Now, there was a fundamental difference between 
the Hellenistic and the Jewish schools. The former was a 
civil institution in which religion played relatively a minor 
part. The latter, especially in the later period when it was 
usually housed in the Synagogue, was essentially a religious 
institution, the instruction of children being regarded as 
the most sacred of all commandments. It was a duty 
which rested primarily on the father, who, in his turn, 
relegated it to the teacher. In the circumstances, it may be 
assumed that the Jewish teacher enjoyed a higher social 
status than his colleagues in Greece or Rome. We shall 
certainly never find him spoken of in such terms as 
" abominable schoolmaster, object abhorred alike by boys 
and girls." 33 


And yet it would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion 
that his social position was in any way enviable. Talmudic 
literature abounds in expressions of the deepest respect and 
veneration for " the teacher." But quite apart from the 
question how much these reflect real conditions, it must 
always be remembered that there was a sharp distinction 
between the sage, the recognised teacher of the "Oral 
Law/' who occupied the highest rungs of the ladder, and 
his humble colleague at the bottom the elementary 
teacher. This distinction existed all over the world from 
the days of ancient Greece down to modern times. There 
is no doubt at all that it was very marked also among Jews 
in Talmudic times. 

It is necessary to stress this point because Talmudic 
texts are so often quoted indiscriminately and thus tend 
to create an erroneous impression which is not warranted 
by the available evidence. 24 Here is a typical example 
of those much-quoted texts. "If a man and his father 
and his teacher are in captivity, he himself takes pre- 
cedence over his teacher (for the purpose of being ran- 
somed); his teacher is to be ransomed before his father; 
but bis mother is to take precedence over all. The sage is 
to be ransomed before the king : if a sage die, we have no 
other one like him; if a king die, all Israel are fit for the 
crown." 25 This, and similar passages, reflect the men- 
tality of the Jewish spiritual leaders at a critical period, 
after the failure of Bar-Kochba's rebellion, when it was a 
matter of vital necessity to train the people to the view that 
the Torah was to take the place of the political institutions 
which had been destroyed, perhaps for ever. They are the 
expression of an aim or an ideal rather than a statement of 
existing conditions. But whatever be the view taken of 
such texts it is quite certain that they contain no reference 
to the elernenary teacher : he is altogether out of place in 
that picture. 


Perhaps the most striking tribute paid to the elementary 
schoolmaster is the application to him of the verse in 
Daniel : *' And they that turn many to righteousness shall 
be as the stars for ever and ever." These, we are told, are 
the teachers of children. But the scholars of the Academy 
were evidently surprised at the high praise given to those 
humble followers of the profession. "What kind of 
teachers?" they ask. And the answer is, "Teachers like 
Rab Samuel ben Shilath " that is, one who was a stand- 
ing example for zeal and devotion. A further ques- 
tion is then asked : " And what about the teachers of the 
'Oral Law'?" This is answered by a scholar of the fifth 
century C.E., who applies to them the verse from Judges, 
" And they that love Him shall be Eke the sun when he 
rises in his might." 26 This is very apt : the difference in 
regard to social position between the sage and the primary 
schoolmaster was very much like the difference between 
the sun and the stars. 

In legal discussions the elementary teacher is found 
among the tradesmen, such as the medical practitioner and 
the weaver, who are considered to be undesirable neigh- 
bours, probably on account of the noise incidental to their 
professions. This, of course, refers to the earlier period, 
when children met in the teacher's private house. 27 Later, 
when the elementary teacher became a kind of public 
servant, he was usually accorded the last place among com- 
munal officers. One late document even goes as far as to 
charge him with having a childish mind, evidently as a 
result of continually having to deal with children. 28 

It may be added that in post-Talmudic times the social 
position of the elementary teacher steadily deteriorated, 
and in quite recent ages the Hebrew word for teacher 
" melammed "actually became a term of insult, very 
much as in Greece of old. 





I. The scope of studies in the Jewish school of the later 
Talmudic period. A comparison with the curriculum of the 
Hellenistic school. II. Secular subjects. The period before 
the Roman wars. Children were sometimes sent to non- 
Jewish teachers. Jewish teachers borrowed from matter and 
methods of non-Jewish teachers. An example from the Tal- 
mudic method of disputation. III. An important tradition 
bearing on the question of secular subjects. Before the fall of 
the state it was customary, among the upper classes, to teach 
children the Greek language and literature. After the destruc- 
tion of the second temple education became identified with the 
study of the Torah alone. 

FOR a variety o reasons it will be convenient to begin the 
consideration of the curriculum with the later period, when 
the school was already subject to public control and was 
generally housed in the Synagogue. The upper limit of 
this period, as explained elsewhere, may be placed at about 
the middle of the second century C.E. 

The following passage will serve as an introduction to 
the whole subject. 

" The sages said : This foolish man enters a Synagogue 
and sees people engaged in the study of the Torah. So 
he asks them: 'How does one begin to study the Torah?' 
And they answer him : ' First one reads in a scroll * (the 
special scroll for children containing the early chapters of 
Genesis or Leviticus; 'then in the Book (Pentateuch); after 
that the Prophets; after that the Writings; when he has 
finished the Bible, he learns the Talmud.' " 



The same order of studies is also found elsewhere : " You 
had a son, and he learned the Torah the Pentateuch, the 
Prophets, and the Writings; the Mishna, Halacha (the 
legal part of the Talmud), and Agadah (the homiletic part 
of the Talmud). 9 ' 1 

This, it will be seen, agrees with the outline given in the 
oft-quoted passage from " the Ethics of the Fathers " : " At 
five, the Bible; at ten, the Mishnah; at fifteen, the 
Talmud." With the addition of the alphabet and the 
liturgy, which are apparently taken here for granted, this 
may be said to represent the full extent of studies in the 
Jewish school of the later Talmudic period. Indeed, it 
would be true to say that this curriculum, in its main out- 
line, remained in force in the Jewish school practically 
down to the end of the eighteenth century, although in 
later ages the emphasis was shifted from the Bible to the 

Compared with the curriculum of the elementary Hellen- 
istic school, one misses here not only gymnastics (which 
after the Maccabean revolt is never heard of again in con- 
nection with the school) but also such popular subjects as 
music and arithmetic. In fact, we have no mention of 
any secular subjects being taught to children in the period 
under discussion. There was no room for studies of this 
kind in the school as then constituted; nor, it would 
appear, was there any pressing need for them in the life 
outside the school at any rate in the Babylonian com- 
munities. A knowledge of the language of the country, 
at least the written language, was uncommon in these 
communities, Jewish scholars looked down upon that 
language, denying it originality. It is interesting that the 
same view is expressed by the rabbis also with regard to 
Latin. The opening verse of Obadiah, " Thou art greatly 
despised," is referred to the Romans who " have neither 
a writing nor a language of their own " evidently a refer- 


snce to Greek influence on the development of Roman 
culture. 2 

On the other hand, the Greek language and culture are 
usually treated with respect. 


The exclusion from the school of all secular subjects 
was a characteristic mark of the period with which we are 
concerned. As will be shown later, this was a necessary, 
perhaps inevitable, consequence of the changed political 
conditions in which the Jewish people found itself after 
the Roman wars. Before that time education had a wider 
meaning, and there was a more liberal attitude to non- 
religious subjects such as were usually designated by the 
term " Greek wisdom/' 

Even in that period, it goes without saying that the 
Bible was the principal subject of study. Furthermore, as 
will be shown later, children's studies were even in the 
earliest times closely connected with the Synagogue ser- 
vices, such as they were, and were indeed designed with a 
view to their active participation in those services. This 
affords strong evidence of the remarkable influence the 
Synagogue exercised on the development of Jewish social 
and cultural life, and also of the view that the origin of 
the school must be sought in the Synagogue. 

Nevertheless, we hear in those times of the practice of 
sending children to non-Jewish teachers for the purpose 
of literary instruction, which, of course, could only mean 
such subjects as the Greek language and literature. This 
practice was forbidden by the rabbis, but their objection 
seems to have been directed against the generally undesir- 
able influence of an idolatrous teacher rather than the 
subject-matter of his teaching. 3 

Indeed, the expression used to denote education in some 


of the earlier texts seems to have been borrowed from a 
passage in the Bible, where it evidently refers to a foreign 
language and literature. It is characteristic of the Jewish 
attitude to education that even for this type of instruction 
authoritative opinion permitted the father to make the 
necessary arrangements on the Sabbath day. 4 

We also hear of what were apparently ^Esopian fables 
used to illustrate biblical verses. Out of three hundred 
only three have survived, and these clearly bear the char- 
acter of elementary school material. 5 It may be assumed 
that the Jewish private teacher of those days, even if he did 
not himself teach the Greek language and literature, bor- 
rowed freely from the matter and method of the contem- 
porary Hellenistic school. 

The extent of that borrowing may be seen from the 
enormous number of Greek words, ranging from a "har- 
bour " to such 'common objects as a " bench/' that have 
found their way into Hebrew. It may be noted here that 
the method of the Jewish high school, the Talmudic 
method of disputation, also dates from that early period 
and owes a great deal to Hellenistic influence. Thus we 
read, for example, of a famous scholar of the second cen- 
tury C.E., who could effectively argue on both sides of a 
case, proving " the unclean (ritually) to be clean " and vice 
versa. But this was the method of the Hellenistic 
rhetorical school, where the students were trained to speak 
for and against a given proposition. Some of these pro- 
positions, suitably translated into Hebrew or Aramaic, 
would easily pass as of Talmudic origin. It is difficult to 
avoid the view that this method of study, which de- 
generated in later generations into a mere hair-splitting 
casuistry, was greatly stimulated by the example of the 
Hellenistic school even if it was not entirely borrowed 
from there. 6 



The following Talmudic passage is so valuable for our 
discussion that we shall quote it at length. 

" In the war of Titus (65-70 C.E.) it was decreed that no 
man must teach his son Greek." On this the question is 
asked: " But surely this cannot be so! For did not Rabbi 
say, ' In Palestine why do we need Syriac? We should use 
either Hebrew or Greek.' " To this the Talmud replies by 
making a distinction between the " Greek language " and 
" Greek wisdom " (or science) and confining the prohibition 
only to the latter. A further question is then asked: " But 
is even ' Greek wisdom ' forbidden? Is not Rabbi Simon 
the son of Gamaliel reported to have said : * There were a 
thousand children in my father's family; five hundred of 
them studied the Torah and five hundred studied " Greek 
wisdom," but there remained of them only I here and my 
cousin in Asia/" To this the answer is given that the 
family of Rabban Gamaliel were different from others on 
account of their being " near to royalty." Another tradi- 
tion is then cited stating that the family of Gamaliel were 
permitted to study "Greek wisdom" because they were 
near to royalty that is, had official relations with the 
Roman authorities. 7 

This discussion throws a useful light on the question of 
secular subjects in the Jewish school. Before the fall of the 
state it may be assumed to have been customary, especially 
among the upper classes, to teach children the Greek lan- 
guage and literature, and perhaps also some other non- 
religious subjects. This would often be done by non- 
Jewish teachers. In the economic and social conditions of 
those times "Greek wisdom" was a necessity especially 
for the inhabitants of the larger towns. Then came the 
disastrous Roman war and the bitter hatreds engendered by 
it, and an attempt was made to erect a barrier between the 


Jews and the Hellenistic world surrounding them, and 
"Greek wisdom/' as representing all secular subjects of 
study, was put under the ban. Such a ban, in other cir- 
cumstances, might have had only a temporary effect. But 
events after 70 C.E., and particularly the defeat of Bar- 
Kochba in 135, all helped to sharpen the hostility towards 
everything Hellenistic. All hopes for regaining political 
independence were apparently shattered for ever. Hence- 
forward, education, the study of the Torah, was to take the 
place of state and temple, to provide the only outlet for 
the people's religious, social, and cultural life. More than 
that : even the past had to be reinterpreted and explained 
anew in terms of the present. Hence those quaint and 
fanciful stories about the heroes of old which fill the 
Talmudic literature. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were 
given the outlook and even the manners of second-century 
rabbis, and David was represented as spending his days in 
the Beth-Hamidrash (house of study) in discussions of the 
" Oral Law." 8 It was a remarkable, and by no means un- 
successful, effort to preserve the continuity of Jewish his- 
tory during a period of political and religious upheaval, 
and it smoothed the transition of the community from a 
political into a spiritual entity. 

It is obvious that in such conditions secular studies could 
not thrive. Here and there, in the upper classes and 
among those who had to maintain contact with the Roman 
authorities, some interest in Hellenistic learning lingered 
on. But education as a whole grew more and more ex- 
clusive in character until it became identified with the 
study of the Torah alone. 

A well-known sage of the second century C.E., so the 
Talmud relates, was once asked by his nephew whether he 
might be permitted to learn some " Greek wisdom " seeing 
that he had already studied the whole of the Torah. By 
way of answer he was referred to the verse in Joshua: 


" This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, 
but thou shalt meditate therein day and night." " Now," 
said the sage, " go and find an hour which is neither day 
nor night, and study in it 'Greek wisdom/ " g This was 
the character which Jewish education took on at that 
period as a result of political circumstances, and which it 
was to maintain for many centuries to come. 



I.- Arithmetic was not included in the curriculum of the ele- 
mentary school in the later Talmudic period ; nor was reading, 
as an independent subject of study, known in that school. 
II. Writing was not an uncommon art in Bible times and in 
the early post-biblical period. Evidence from the Bible and 
from early rabbinical literature. In the later period, and 
especially in Babylonia, writing was uncommon. Evidence 
from the Talmud. Writing was of little practical use. It was 
not taught in the elementary school of later times. 

THE modern practice of grouping these subjects together 
" the three R's " is followed by many writers on early 
Jewish education. The general view seems to be that all 
the three were included in the curriculum of the ele- 
mentary school, although some doubt is felt with regard 
to arithmetic. 1 

As will be shown presently, there is little, if any, founda- 
tion for this view. On the contrary, one is almost com- 
pelled to the conclusion that none of these subjects, in 
their generally accepted meaning, was taught to children 
in the later Talmudic period that is, in the period when 
it is at all possible to speak of a " school " as an organised, 
publicly controlled institution. The absence of these sub- 
jects from its curriculum is indeed the chief characteristic 
of the Jewish school, distinguishing it both from the con- 
temporary Hellenistic as well as from the modern school. 

First as to arithmetic. It is not, of course, improbable 
that in the earlier period some children learnt it privately 
from their Jewish or non-Jewish teachers. But it is diffi- 



cult to see on what grounds it should be considered to have 
been a regular subject of study. The fact that some rabbis 
used mathematics, along with other sciences, in their dis- 
cussions can hardly be regarded as sufficient evidence that 
arithmetic was regularly taught to children o elementary 
school age. There were mathematicians, scientists, and 
artists in pre-war Russia when the bulk of the population 
was illiterate. But there is no trace of other evidence. 
Both the Greeks and the Romans used finger-reckoning, 
and, among the latter especially, it became an important 
subject of instruction in the elementary school. There is 
at least one reference in rabbinical literature to this form 
of arithmetic, but its style suggests that it was an uncom- 
mon art among Jews, and it is most unlikely that it was 
taught to children. 2 

When we come to the publicly controlled school of the 
later period there can be no doubt at all that it had no 
place for any subject like arithmetic. As was shown above, 
the aim and purpose of the school, its prevailing temper, 
was antagonistic to any subject which could not be re- 
garded as of a directly religious nature. 

The question of the teaching of reading is dealt with at 
length in a special chapter. Little therefore need be said 
here, except, by way of anticipation, to state one conclusion 
reached there namely, that reading as an independent 
subject was unknown in the school of the Talmudic period. 
In the absence of a vowel system there was no means of 
teaching it. The children were first taught the alphabet, 
which consisted of consonants only, i.e., the names, shapes, 
and function of the letters; from that they were taken 
straight to the Bible and learned the correct reading of the 
verses, together with their meaning, the former being 
largely dependent upon the latter. 



In later biblical times writing does not seem to have 
been an uncommon art. We hear of families amongst 
whom it was apparently an hereditary profession. 
Amongst the general population, too, especially the upper 
classes, it seems to have been sufficiently developed to form 
a convenient means of communication, or to enable people 
to write from dictation. The spread of literacy, including 
both reading and writing, had reached a stage when it 
could be regarded as a distinguishing mark between people. 
Although there is no clear evidence on the point, it may 
be conjectured from indirect biblical references that some 
boys at least were taught the art of writing, presumably 
by their parents, 3 

There is no doubt that in the post-biblical, or early 
Talmudic, period writing became even more common. 
This is especially true of the Hellenistic times. We read 
of voluminous correspondence; of shopkeepers writing 
down their debts on tablets; of all kinds of writing 
materials, including such a suggestive article as " the com- 
mon inkpot/' The names of these numerous implements 
are largely borrowed from the Greek, thus showing us how 
much the spread of the art owed to Hellenistic influence. 

The following, evidently dating from an early period, 
affords us an indirect but all the more valuable light on 
the subject. " These are trusted to testify when they are 
grown up concerning what they saw in their childhood. 
A man is trusted to say : * This is the handwriting of my 
father, and this is the handwriting of my teacher, and this 
is the handwriting of my brother.' " 4 The mention of the 
teacher should not be overlooked. It goes to support the 
view that in those circles where boys were given a literary 
education this would commonly include also writing. It 
cannot be spoken of as a regular subject at a time when 


even a knowledge of reading, which fulfilled a direct 
religious need, was yet very far from general. It was 
taught by the father, or by a private teacher, either for 
general purposes or as a special trade. 

On the other hand, there is abundant evidence that in 
the later period, and especially in Babylonia, writing was 
uncommon. It was regarded as a specialised art and was 
not taught in the elementary school "How many re- 
mained of Sennacherib *s army?" the Talmud asks. " Rav 
(d. 247 C.E.) says, ten; for it is written in Isaiah, ' And the 
remnant of the trees of his forest shall be few, and a child 
shall write them down. 3 Now how much can a child write 
down? Ten." This is explained to mean that a child 
could only let fall a drop of ink, and this would resemble 
in shape the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet of which 
the numerical value is ten. That is all that a child was 
expected to be able to do. 

From the fourth century C.E. there is a story of a scholar 
who was urged by some people, against his better judg- 
ment, to write a certain document. In order to get rid of 
them he told his scribe to write out the alphabet. He was 
apparently sure they would not know the difference. From 
the same century we read of another scholar, this time in 
Palestine, who said that if he could find someone to write 
for him he would send a letter, embodying some point of 
law, to a colleague of his. This is followed by the ques- 
tion how he could cause such a letter to be written in 
view of the prohibition of reducing the "Oral Law" to 

The following is even more significant. " A scholar must 
learn three things: writing; the slaughtering of animals 
(in the Jewish manner); and circumcision." Another ver- 
sion of the same tradition, dating from the third cen- 
tury C.E., is then cited, which adds to the above three some 
other things. The divergence is explained by the fact that 


the other things "are common" and need no particular 
mention. Writing, then, was quite clearly uncommon in 
the third century at any rate in the Babylonian com- 
munities. The scholar, according to the comment of a 
reliable authority, might need a knowledge of writing for 
an occasional signature when acting as judge or witness. 
The general population, apart from the professional scribes 
or clerks, had little or no use for it. From the middle of 
the second century education steadily became more general, 
but at the same time also more narrow in its scope. 
Religion was becoming co-terminous with life. A time 
was soon to come when the Jew would treat his home 
with the sanctity of the Synagogue, and the Synagogue 
with the familiarity of the home. Education was the in- 
strument which was to achieve this re-evaluation of the 
social and cultural life in the terms of religion. Whatever 
did not help the accomplishment of this task was discarded. 

The pupil of the Hellenistic school could make his own 
books by writing from the dictation of his teacher. The 
Jewish boy was expressly forbiden to write scrolls of the 
Law. With what reverence the writing of the scrolls was 
regarded may be seen from the following. 

Rabbi Meir, a famous scholar of the second century C.E., 
relates: "When I came to Rabbi Ishmael to learn the 
Torah he asked me what was my occupation and I told 
him I was a writer of scrolls. He then said to me, 'My 
son, be careful with your work. Should you omit a single 
letter, or add one, you would destroy the whole world/ " 
Even for a short quotation from the Bible, consisting of 
three or four words, the paper, or parchment, had to be 
ruled in the same manner as for the writing of a scroll. 

As to the " Oral Law," the general rule forbade its reduc- 
tion to writing, although some scholars did apparently 
possess their private collections of texts. The same pro- 
hibition against writing also applied to the liturgy. In 


these circumstances It was only natural that the average 
boy did not learn the art of writing. It became a 
specialised trade. There were communal scribes, or clerks, 
for the purpose of dealing with various legal documents. 
There were also scribes, a kind of secretaries, attached to 
the heads of the Academies. These were sometimes so 
expert in all that concerned their profession that even the 
sages themselves could not hold their own against them. 
Boys apparently were apprenticed to these scribes in the 
same manner as to any other tradesmen. But this would be 
after school age. The elementary school Itself in that 
period did not as a rule teach writing to Its pupils. 5 



I. The close association of the school and the Synagogue. 
Scriptural readings in the Synagogue. The septennial, the 
triennial and the annual cycles. The lessons from the Pro- 
phets. The Hagiographa. The manner of reading. II. Bible 
studies in the school followed the order of the weekly readings 
in the Synagogue. Children were encouraged to read and 
translate in public. The Bible syllabus in earlier and in later 
times. A good knowledge of the Pentateuch was common 
among children in the later centuries of the Talmudic period. 
III. The practice of beginning in school with Leviticus. Sug- 
gested reasons for this practice. The assumption that it origin- 
ated before the fall of the state. Criticism of the current views. 
The origin must be sought in post-temple times. The practice 
was a means of securing a place on the curriculum for '* the 
law of the priests " which had gone out of use. IV. The 
liturgy occupied a prominent place in the elementary school. 
The festivals. The " Haggadah " for Passover as a textbook. 
The " Shema." The " Hallel " and the " Grace." Benedic- 
tions. The difficulty of acquiring a correct knowledge of the 
liturgy owing to its fluid form. Children were expected to 
have a good knowledge of it. The story of the sage and the 
schoolboy. V. In the earlier period elementary education 
did not go beyond the " Written Law." Later the " Oral 
Law " began to gain in importance at the expense of the Bible. 
The difference in this respect between Palestine and Baby- 
lonia. Palestinian scholars devoted more attention to the 
Scriptures to be able to meet the attacks of Christian contro- 
versialists. Scholars who taught the Mishnah to their own 
sons. The elementary school, as a rule, did not teach the " Oral 
Law." The teaching of swimming an echo of Athenian 
practice. The school's active part in the development of re- 
ligious life. 

IT is easier to determine what the elementary school in the 
Talmudic period did not teach than to discover what pre- 


clsely it did teach. The material from which our evidence 
is to be drawn consists of a large number of isolated refer- 
ences, mostly indirect and often of doubtful authenticity, 
scattered throughout rabbinical literature. Without some 
reliable guiding principle it would indeed be a hopeless 
task to attempt the construction of a more or less coherent 
picture out of such material. This guiding principle is to 
be found in the view, repeatedly stressed by us, that 
the origin of Jewish education must be sought in the 
Synagogue, which, as Philo rightly tells us, was from its in- 
ception a "house of instruction." The whole work of 
education revolved around the Synagogue service, and the 
Scriptural readings supplied both the content as well as 
the form of instruction. This is true of the academy for 
the study of the " Oral Law," where the rabbis followed the 
arrangements of the Synagogue readings. It is even more 
true of elementary education, of which indeed it has re- 
mained a fundamental feature down to the present day. 1 

This is not the place for a full discussion of the develop- 
ment of the Jewish liturgy, but it may be assumed that 
out of the readings of the Law on special occasions, some 
of which are already mentioned in the Bible, there evolved 
in the early Synagogue the practice of a weekly reading 
in which the Pentateuch was completed in seven years. 
This gradually developed into a triennial, and later still in 
Babylonia into an annual cycle. There is some evidence 
that in Babylonia in the third century C.E, such a cycle 
was already in existence. 

In addition to the Pentateuch, lessons from the Prophets 
were read on Sabbaths and feast-days. These are supposed 
but without any actual proof to have been introduced 
during the Maccabean times. For our enquiry it is rather 
an important fact that in these readings all the prophets 
are represented, with minor exceptions. 

Of the Hagiographa only the five Megilloth (scrolls) 


were read, each on a certain festival with which, for some 
reason or another, it had become associated. Of these, 
Esther was, perhaps, the most popular. But the Psalms 
have, of course, largely entered into the composition of 
the prayers. 

It should be added that these Bible lessons were not 
read by an official of the Synagogue, but by members of 
the congregation, mostly ordinary, though naturally 
educated, laymen, of whom at least seven were "called 
up " on the Sabbath and a lesser number on festivals, each 
one reading his own portion. It is significant that when 
this practice was discontinued generally in the Middle 
Ages, it still remained in force for boys "called up" in 
the Synagogue on reaching their religious majority at 
thirteen, who, to the present day, are expected to do their 
own reading. It will be readily seen what a powerful 
stimulus this custom was for the promotion of literary 
education. 2 


With these data before us we may be able to conjecture 
the course of studies of an average Jewish boy in those 
early times. 

He would begin with the alphabet a difficult subject 
which would claim much time and attention. From this 
he would be taken directly to the Pentateuch without any 
intermediate stage. For this purpose there was a special 
children's scroll which, in the earlier period, contained the 
beginning of Genesis up to the story of the Flood. After 
the destruction of the temple, as will be explained later, 
this was changed to the first eight chapters of Leviticus, 
which consist of the " Laws " of the various sacrifices. 

There is no means of telling how long this preliminary 
study would take. The nature of the task, especially when 
Hebrew was no longer the vernacular, will be more readily 


grasped when we remember that the text consisted prac- 
tically of consonants alone, and that correct reading, 
although aided by meaning and context, was yet largely 
a matter of mechanical memory. 

After such a training the average boy would be ready 
to enter upon a more or less regular course of biblical 
studies, following the order of the weekly reading in the 
Synagogue. In the early period at any rate this was not 
a fixed quantity, the length of the portion to be read de- 
pending on the individual reader, or on the Synagogue 
official. And so we are told in an early tradition that 
" school-children used to arrange the portions and read by 
the light of a candle" on Friday night. Elsewhere we 
read of the "hazzan " something like a modern beadle 
who is engaged in " arranging the beginnings of the por- 
tions." The Synagogue itself was sometimes called by a 
name which had reference to this arrangement of the 
weekly readings. 3 

Children were encouraged to read and translate In 
public, especially in the earlier period. In a manner some- 
what similar to the modern practice a teacher would 
privately prepare the boy for the reading of a portion of 
the Pentateuch, or the lesson from the Prophets. He and 
the father would then be present in the Synagogue to hear 
the boy read. 4 A bright boy might even conceive the 
ambition of reading in public the whole Book of Esther. 
We actually hear of two such boys in the second century 
C.E. Later, however, such ambitions were discouraged. 5 

In the early period, when education was a private in- 
stitution, there could be no uniform beginning age. Yet 
a boy who would get an education at all would probably 
commence at the age of five or six, We may assume such 
a boy to spend a year or so on preliminary studies the 
alphabet and the special scroll. After that his lessons 
would be modelled on the Synagogue scheme for readings 


from Scripture, calculated to cover the whole of the Penta- 
teuch in seven years. He would thus complete the " study 
of the Law " at thirteen the year in which he attains his 
religious majority and which would also mark the end of 
his elementary education. This might be no more than 
a coincidence, but it fitted in well with the general view 
that at thirteen a boy became, in his own person, respon- 
sible for the observance of the Commandments. 6 The 
prophetic lessons would be studied at the same time, 
although there is reason to believe that a good knowledge 
of the Prophets, even of a book like Isaiah, was in those 
days not common among children. 

Of the books of the " Kethubim " the Psalms and Esther 
would claim attention on account of their prominence in 
the Synagogue. The Book of Proverbs, on the other hand, 
has always been considered to possess special educational 
value, and there is evidence that it was sometimes studied 
even before the prophets, at least those of the prophets 
that were not drawn upon for Synagogue readings. The 
Book of Job, there is reason to think, was not taught to 
children, either on account of its difficulty or of its un- 
suitability. 7 

With the introduction of the triennial, or, as in Baby- 
lonia, the annual, cycle, it became more difficult for educa- 
tion to follow the Synagogue. Some schools, to judge from 
a popular practice of post-Talmudic times, would probably 
arrange their curriculum on a concentric plan, studying 
each year a little more of the weekly portion until the 
whole ground was covered. Others would adopt the 
simpler plan of working through the books of the Bible 
in their order. Others still would confine their attention 
mainly to the " five books/' A sage of the fourth century 
C.E, tells us that it is the father's duty to teach his son the 
Pentateuch alone. 8 

A good knowledge of this book, at any rate, was very 


common amongst children In the later centuries of the 
Talmudic period. An average boy that is, " one who is 
neither clever nor foolish " was expected to be able to read 
in a scroll even a word in which the first letter was defaced 
or nibbed out. And when in the discussions in the 
academy a pentateuchal verse was quoted by way of 
proof it was often accompanied by the phrase : " Go and 
learn it in the elementary school," or, "Even school- 
children know it." And this was by no means a mere 
phrase 9 


There is one question in connection with our subject 
which has so far received no satisfactory solution. 

From various Talmudic references we know that it was 
customary for children to begin their study of the Bible 
with the Book of Leviticus. This became a firmly estab- 
lished practice in post-Talmudic times, and is still followed 
to a certain extent even in present days. 

Educationally considered, one could hardly find a more 
unsuitable beginning for young children, especially when 
compared with such a book as Genesis, with its natural 
appeal to the youthful imagination. It may therefore be 
taken for granted that there must have been a very strong 
reason for the introduction of such a practice. But what 
was that reason? Let us first hear the testimony of the 

Rabbi Assi third century C.E. says: "Why are chil- 
dren made to begin with the * law of the priests ' (Leviticus) 
and are not made to begin with Genesis? Because 
the Holy One, blessed be He, said, " Since the children are 
pure and the sacrifices are pure, let the pure (children) 
come and engage in the study of the pure (sacrifices).' " 10 

Now this is on the face of it an after-thought, intended 
to supply a reason for a custom which had become, or 


was becoming, prevalent. It quite obviously holds no 
water, and with a little ingenuity, of which the rabbis had 
no lack, no less cogent " reasons " could be discovered why 
children should begin with almost any other part of the 
Bible. But the explanations of modern writers are scarcely 
more satisfactory. Bacher, who like other writers considers 
the custom to have originated before the destruction of 
the temple, suggests that it arose in the schools of Jeru- 
salem, where the pupils were priestly children. The teach- 
ing of Leviticus was intended as a means of initiating them 
into priestly life. But even if one could imagine schools 
of the kind suggested in Jerusalem, for which there is no 
evidence at all, it would still fail to explain the general 
acceptance of the custom and its remarkable hold on 
Jewry throughout the ages. Jewish religious life found 
its expression mainly in the Synagogue with its various 
activities. For the communities outside of Jerusalem and 
especially for the Diaspora this must have been so even 
in temple times. It is most unlikely that parents and 
teachers would ignore the demands of their immediate 
environment and teach the children first of all the least 
suitable part of the Bible because the priests in Jerusalem 
might find it useful for their sons. 

Another recent writer expresses the view that the nar- 
rative of Genesis might be considered " as unfitting, for the 
natural innocence and piety of children." But this is an 
ultra-modern thought which would hardly occur to a Jew 
of the first or second century. Besides, it would be a reason 
only for not beginning with Genesis. It does not attempt 
to explain the preference over all other books given to 

Now the difficulty in finding a satisfactory explanation 
for this custom arises from the assumption that its origin 
goes back to temple times. Once this assumption is 
dropped the custom almost explains itself. The first time 


we hear of It Is in connection with a discussion in the 
second century C.E. about special scrolls for children. At 
that time, it seems clear, there was no uniform practice: 
some began with Genesis, others with Leviticus. All other 
passages where this custom is mentioned are of a later 

Its origin must be sought in post-temple times probably 
after the defeat of Bar-Kochba. The efforts for the re- 
covery of political independence ended in disaster. With 
these also went the hope for the rebuilding of the temple. 
There was the danger that the chapters of the Pentateuch 
which dealt with the sacrificial ceremonial now fallen into 
disuse might be entirely forgotten. And so children were 
made to begin their studies with " the law of the priests," 
securing for that part of the Bible an honoured place in 
the religious life of the community. It was one of the 
numerous practices of a similar kind affecting the religious, 
social and domestic life of the Jew, that took their rise in 
the critical days following the disastrous Roman wars. 11 


The close connection between education and the Syna- 
gogue is shown also by the prominent place given to the 
liturgy in the elementary school. 

It was apparently an ancient custom to explain to the 
people the observances and ceremonials associated with 
the various festivals some time before their occurrence* It 
is probably in this practice that we shall find the origin 
of the public reading of the Torah at first on festivals and 
later also on the Sabbaths. 12 Here, too, education followed 
the methods of the Synagogue. Thus the group of Psalms, 
called the " Hallel," which forms the central feature of the 
liturgy on festivals, was made into a special scroll for the 
instruction of children. From an early source we know 


that young boys could even lead the congregation in the 
recital of these Psalms. 13 Again, the boy is the central 
figure in the elaborate home ceremonial on the first night 
of Passover, which goes back to very early times. 

The whole ceremonial is based on the educationally 
significant verse, as it was later interpreted: "And thou 
shalt tell thy son." The "Haggadah," as the book con- 
taining the service held on that evening is called, may be 
regarded as one of the oldest textbooks in the world. It is 
in some way a vague anticipation of the theory underlying 
the modern "project method." For it is arranged in 
the form of an anthology giving extracts from biblical 
and early post-biblical literature, with additions from 
later times, all organised round the central theme of 
Passover which has always had a powerful appeal to the 
Jewish child. There are numerous references in rabbinical 
literature showing what an important part this festival 
played in the practical training as well as in the literary 
education of the boy. 14 

But apart from the festivals, of which Passover is only 
an outstanding example, the liturgy in general formed an 
important part of a boy's education. Although in the earlier 
period it was not considered obligatory for a boy under 
twelve to recite the " Shema," 15 yet this was one of the first 
things he learnt, and it was written out for his benefit on a 
special scroll. On the other hand, even in those times children 
were considered to be obliged to read their prayers and the 
'* grace after meals." From an early text we get a glimpse 
of the time when education was yet very far from general, 
and when a young boy would read the " grace " for his un- 
lettered father. " Verily," they said, " a son may recite the 
grace for his father . . . but may a curse come upon him " 
(the father). 16 

It was not a small matter for a child to know the 
"grace." Like other prayers and benedictions, it was as 


yet In a fluid state. We hear from the third century of 
a famous scholar who, when he had to lead in the " grace," 
was warned beforehand in a delicate manner to make sure 
of it. 17 

The same was true of the liturgy in general, which was 
fluid in form largely as a result of the prohibition to reduce 
it to writing. A correct knowledge of even the shorter 
benedictions was considered a test of scholarship. " From 
a man's benedictions it may be recognised whether he is a 
scholar or not." 18 

But children, especially in the later period, were expected 
to acquire in the school a good knowledge of the ritual of 
the Synagogue as well as of the home. The spread of 
literary education was accompanied by a general tendency 
to assign to the younger boy a more active part in the 
religious life of the community and to rely on a mental 
rather than on a physical age of fitness for the performance 
of observances. 19 

And hi a manner which reminds us of Sparta members of 
the community in general, not to speak of the scholars, 
considered themselves entitled to examine school-children 
whenever they thought fit to do so. It can be easily 
imagined what such public vigilance meant to the teacher. 
It was an accepted custom to stop a boy and ask him: 
" Tell me the verse you have learned today "; or, " What 
did your teacher teach you today?" 

Rabbi Ze'era, we are told, when he felt weak from study, 
used to go and sit by the door of a certain "house of 
study," saying to himself: " When the sages will go out or 
come in, I shall rise before them and so receive a reward 
from Heaven for honouring scholars." Once as he sat 
there a schoolboy came out, so he asked him : " What did 
your teacher teach you?" The child told him he had 
learnt that day some benedictions on the eating of veget- 
ables, whereupon the sage entered into a discussion with 


the schoolboy trying to prove him wrong. It is rather 

interesting that the Talmud, in relating the incident, 
decides for the child. 20 

Little remains to be said of other formal subjects. In 
the earlier period elementary education did not, it would 
seem, venture beyond the confines of the " Written Law," 
which was the only textbook in existence. We hear, for 
instance, of a rabbi of the second century C.E., who 
expressed his surprise when a boy of twelve or thirteen 
showed some acquaintance with a certain traditional law. 21 

Later, however, especially after the redaction of the 
Mishnah was completed in 200 C.E., it was only natural 
that the study of the "Oral Law" should gain in im- 
portance at the expense of the Bible. A knowledge of the 
Bible alone would not help one to escape from the stigma 
of being an " am-haarez " " ignoramus." Familiarity 
with the "Oral Law" came to be recognised as the only 
hallmark of scholarship. It was even possible for a rabbi 
in those days to be doubtful about the text of the Ten 
Commandments. 22 

It would seem that in this respect there was a difference 
between the Babylonian and the Palestinian scholars. The 
latter had to meet the attacks of Christian controversialists, 
and therefore found it necessary to devote more attention 
to the Bible from which both sides drew their arguments. 23 

There are numerous references to scholars, in those later 
days, who taught Mishnah to their own sons, or sent them 
to teachers for that purpose. Some prominent rabbis were 
evidently of the opinion that children should study the 
Mishnah even before the Prophets. We also hear of a 
prodigy, of whom every age has its quota, who at six was 
already studying a difficult tractate of the " Oral Law." 24 


It Is, however, quite safe to conclude that these were 
only exceptions, and that the elementary school did not, 
as a rule, teach the "Oral Law." This belonged to the 
curriculum of higher education, and higher education has 
always been the privilege of the minority. 

The general position may be summed up by the follow- 
ing quotation ; " Usually a thousand enter the study of the 
Bible; of these one hundred proceed to the Mishnah; of 
these, again, ten go forward to the study of the Talmud; 
and only one of the whole number attains to the position 
of a recognised scholar." 25 

As a curiosity it may be mentioned that according to 
an anonymous opinion, quoted in an early document, "a 
father is obliged to teach his son swimming." There is no 
evidence from anywhere else that swimming ever formed 
a regular part of a boy's education. It is, however, 
reminiscent of Greek custom. According to tradition there 
was a law in Athens that every boy should be taught 
reading, writing, and swimming. Of an utter dunce it 
used to be said : " He knows neither his letters nor how to 
swim/' It is not at all unlikely that the Talmudic opinion 
was an echo of Greek practice. 26 

There is one point which deserves some emphasis before 
we leave the subject of the literary curriculum. Accord- 
ing to the view presented here, the Synagogue was the 
main factor which determined the scope and the organisa- 
tion of the studies in the elementary school. It would, 
however, be a mistake to think that the latter was merely 
an instrument to carry into effect ideas created outside of it. 
The function of the school is hardly ever entirely con- 
servative in its character. The need for the training of 
the young generation supplies a powerful stimulus to the 
development of social life. The school not only helps to 
preserve old values, but also to create new ones, thus 
enriching constantly the life of the community in which it 


carries on its work. And this is particularly true of the 
Jewish school in the period with which we are concerned. 

The critical second century was a turning-point in the 
spiritual no less than in the political history of the Jewish 
people. The stream of national life, broad and turbulent 
in the preceding three centuries, could henceforth find only 
one outlet religion. Synagogue and "house of study" 
were to fill the place left empty by the destruction of temple 
and kingdom. But the fundamental work of remoulding 
the national character, of reforming the whole outlook of 
the community, fell chiefly to the elementary school. And 
even in the development of the purely formal side of 
religious life the latter played a more active part than 
appears on the surface. It would not be an exaggeration 
to say that even in this respect it gave to the Synagogue 
almost as much as it took from it. Religious thought and 
practice, both amongst Jews and also amongst others who 
came under their influence, owe a greater debt to the 
elementary schoolmaster of Talmudic times than has yet 
been acknowledged. 




I. Rabbinical educational theory. Jewish educational thought 
approaches nearer to Herbartianism than to other systems. The 
aim of education ; and the means. Illustrations. The place of 
the teacher. II. Differences between the two systems. Her- 
bart's system was essentially individualistic. In Jewish educa- 
tion in post-temple times the social aim predominated. Illustra- 
tions from rabbinical literature. III. Rabbinical psychology. 
Comparison with Herbart's system. The young child. Adoles- 
cence. The " evil inclination " and the *' good inclination." 
The emergence of the latter during the period of adolescence. 
Substantial agreement of rabbinical views with those of modern 
writers. Hall, Slaughter, and Wheeler on adolescence. IV. 
The application of rabbinical psychology. A further comparison 
with Herbart. The emphasis put by the Jewish teachers on 
practical religious training. Intelligence tests. The two main 
forces which combined to shape Jewish educational thought. 

WE now have to enquire into the theoretical principles 
which served as a basis for the methods o the Jewish 
school. To attempt the construction of a coherent theory 
of education out of the casual sayings scattered in 
rabbinical literature would be an almost hopeless task. 
Several such attempts have indeed been made, but the 
results bear little resemblance to what a modern student 
would understand by a philosophy of education. The most 
profitable approach seems to be promised by a comparative 
method that is, to compare and contrast rabbinical educa- 
tional thought, or rather snatches of thought, with some 
well-defined modem theory. The latter will supply the 
framework around which we may arrange our material 



into some form of systematic structure. The theory most 
suitable for our purpose would seem to be that of Herbart. 
Jewish educational thought approaches nearer to Her- 
bartianism than to other systems in many important 
respects. 2 

What is the aim of education? Herbart gives his answer 
in the opening sentence of "The Esthetic Revelation of 
the World " : " The one and the whole work of education 
may be summed up in the concept of morality." Man's 
worth, he tells us elsewhere, does not lie in his knowing 
but in his willing. 3 The Jewish teacher answers the ques- 
tion in much the same manner. " Not learning but doing 
is the chief thing," and "he whose deeds exceed his 
wisdom, his wisdom shall endure." 4 The same idea is 
expressed in an even stronger form by a teacher of the 
third century C.E. : " He who is engaged in mere study is 
like one who has no god." 5 And of Raba, a great educa- 
tional reformer of the fourth century, we read: "Raba 
used to say the end of wisdom is repentance and good 
deeds." 6 An analysis of the concept of morality would 
disclose rather interesting differences between the ancient 
Jewish teacher and the German philosopher of the nine- 
teenth century. But this could hardly affect the conclusion 
that each of them in his own way regarded the production 
of " the good man " as the chief business of education. 

The next question is: What are the means leading to 
the achievement of this aim? Herbart's answer may be 
summed up in one word : knowledge. The human being 
is more easily approached through his intellect than 
through his sentiments; instruction is therefore the best 
means at our disposal. "Educative instruction" is the 
characteristic feature of the Herbartian theory of educa- 
tion. Without knowledge one cannot be good. " The chief 
seat of the cultivation of character is in the culture of the 
circle of thought." "Instruction will form the circle of 


thought, and education the character. The last is nothing 
without the first. Herein is contained the whole sum of 
my pedagogy." And again: "I have no conception of 
education without instruction; just as conversely, I do not 
acknowledge any instruction which does not educate." 7 

The Jewish teacher would go a long way in his agreement 
with Herbart on this point. There is abundant evidence 
for this in Talmudic literature, but a few examples must 
suffice. " Study is great because it leads to action," " The 
Holy One, blessed be He, has created the * evil inclination ' 
(appetitive instincts or animal desires), but He created the 
Torah (knowledge) as an antidote/' " There is no remedy 
against the * evil inclination * but the study of the Torah." 8 

Among the innumerable variations on this theme one 
sometimes comes across a passage like the following, which 
is curiously Herbartian in tone and outlook : 

"... If you have a cup full of oil in your hand, and a 
drop of water falls into it, a drop of oil will be displaced; 
so if a word of the Torah enters the mind, it displaces an 
unworthy thought, and vice versa" 9 Compare this with 
Herbart: " Ignoti nulla cupido! . . . The circle of thought 
contains the store of that which by degrees can mount by 
the steps of interest to desire, and then by means of action 
to volition ... if inner assurance and the intellectual 
interests are wanting, if the store of thought be meagre, 
the ground lies empty for the animal desires. mo 

In Herbart's system the teacher is all-important. He is 
to supply the instruction which is to form the circle of 
thought, which in its turn is to serve as the basis of 
character. Herbartianism has indeed with some justice 
been characterised as "the schoolmaster come to his own." 11 
In Jewish education, too, for a variety of reasons, the 
teacher is assigned an exalted position. " What the teacher 
did not teach, the pupil could not know/' was accepted as 
an axiom. " The plastered cistern that never loses a drop " 


was the description of an ideal pupil. And a great scholar 
could boast that he had never taught anything which he 
had not learned from his teachers. 12 


This coincidence of view between Herbartianism and 
Jewish educational thought is impressive enough, as far as 
it goes. On closer analysis, however, it will prove to be 
merely "skin-deep." For the differences between the two 
systems are profound, revealing a fundamental divergence 
in educational outlook. 

Herbarfs system was essentially individualistic. With 
him the chief consideration was the perfection of individual 
character rather than the training for citizenship. 13 With 
such an end in view, the content of instruction had to be 
made rich and many-sided. This was also required by his 
psychological theory of the formative value of instruction. 
In this, no less than in his influence on method, lies 
Herbart's importance for the history of education. 

Jewish education set out on its long career with a simliar 
individualistic conception. But this belongs to what may 
be called its prehistoric period. Then it was the father's 
business to teach his son his duties to God and man. The 
community as such had neither control nor responsibility 
in the matter. 

It is not too much to say that had this view prevailed 
Jewish education would have had no history. Nor perhaps 
the Jewish people either. But after a leisurely and rather 
undistinguished existence, during 500 years or so, education 
was thrown by force of circumstances into a position of 
enormous importance. The disastrous issue of the Roman 
wars at the beginning of the present era had deprived the 
people of their political institutions including the temple 
the outward expression of religious and national unity. 


Education was called upon to fill the void. The school 
became the focus of the vital energies of the community, 
the chief weapon in its fight for existence. Individual per- 
fection was not ignored, but it was overshadowed by the 
greater need of national preservation. But this broadening 
of function carried with it a necessary restriction of content. 
Knowledge was narrowed down In Its connotation until It 
came to be identified with the study of the Torah. Classical 
culture, " Greek wisdom," as It was called, was put under 
the ban; it was rigidly kept out of the school. The study 
of the Torah alone offered a suitable outlet for social 
activity as well as a promise of survival. 

In this light are to be read the eulogies of the study of 
the Torah of which the rabbis never tired. The following 
may be taken as examples : 

" And yet for all that when they be in the land of their 
enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them " 
thus the Bible in the name of God. " But what is there left 
to Israel?'* ask the rabbis; "have not all the good gifts 
been taken from them? It Is the book of the Law. But 
for the existence of this they would not be distinguished 
from other nations at all." The study of the Torah is 
greater than the rebuilding of the temple; than the offering 
of regular sacrifices ; than priesthood or kingdom. " Since 
the destruction of the temple the Holy One, blessed be He, 
has nothing else In His world but the four cubits of the 
Law." " School-children are not to be interrupted in their 
studies even for the sake of rebuilding the temple." " The 
scholar takes precedence over the King of Israel." " Even 
a non-Jew who is engaged In the study of the Torah Is 
equal to the High Priest." " Only he who is occupied In 
the study of the Torah Is really free." 14 

Note the regularly recurrent contrast: Temple and 
Kingdom on the one hand; Torah on the other. This is 
not accidental, nor is it a striving after literary effect. It 


is meant to drive home the idea that the Torah is now to 
take the place of " all the good gifts "; it is to become the 
chief content of national life. One cannot fail to hear the 
people's " will to live " speaking through all this. This 
" will to live " was the driving force behind the intensive 
development of the Jewish school from the second century 


The ground has now been sufficiently prepared for the 
interesting but difficult question : What were the psycho- 
logical principles underlying the rabbinical theory of educa- 
tion? This is not meant to imply that the rabbis had a 
scientifically formulated psychological theory. Theirs was 
a popular psychology, or rather a body of current views and 
beliefs, based partly on tradition, partly on experience and 
observation. Foreign ideas, Greek and others, naturally 
found their way into this psychology and easily merged 
with it. Nor could there be anything like strict consistency 
of view, considering the length of the period and the 
number of scholars concerned. 

Nevertheless, it is beyond doubt that there were some 
fundamental views on the nature of mind, especially that 
of the child, held commonly among Jewish teachers of 
those times. The virtual uniformity in the practice of edu- 
cation testifies to a corresponding uniformity of theory. 
It should be added that this question is of more than 
merely historical interest. For, in essentials, the Jewish 
school has shown little change down to most recent times. 

Here, too, a comparison with a clear-cut theory like 
Herbart's seems to offer a promising method of approach. 
Roughly speaking, the Herbartian theory regards the mind 
as merely a stage for the interplay of ideas, or " presenta- 
tions/' acquired from without. In itself it can make no 
contribution to the action of these ideas. It is an unknown 


" something " whose function it is not easy to see* " The 
soul is originally a tabula rasa in the most absolute sense, 
without any form of life or presentation; consequently, 
there are in it neither primitive ideas, nor any predisposi- 
tion to form them. All ideas, without exception, are a 
product of time and experience." 15 Mind, then, is nothing 
but what is put into it; or in Dewey's words : " The furni- 
ture of the mind is the mind/' Applied to education it 
means that " nurture " the manipulation of environment 
becomes all-important; whilst "nature" or native en- 
dowment, if not entirely ignored, is at best given only a 
secondary place. 

What were the views of the rabbis on the nature of the 
mind? It is difficult, if at all possible, to knit their dis- 
connected sayings into a coherent picture. But this much 
is quite clear : Herbart's intellectualistic psychology would 
have been incomprehensible to them. The natural endow- 
ment of the human being, his innate tendencies and dis- 
positions, were fully recognised by them and even exag- 
gerated. Like Rosseau, they might also say that "there 
is no original corruption in the human heart." The 
original purity of the soul is repeatedly emphasised by 
them. 16 But not because it is a "blank sheet" ready to 
receive any writing that might be put on it. On the con- 
trary, the child was regarded as an active being, endowed 
from birth, or from conception, 17 with strong instinctive 
impulses and conative forces, constantly seeking an outlet 
for his physical energy. Only that these impulses, although 
they may be " evil," are not therefore immoral. For, to 
quote again Rousseau, with whom the Jewish teachers 
would agree: "As the child is wholly unmoral in his 
actions, he can do nothing morally wrong." 18 

The turning-point is reached at the age of thirteen, 
when the voice of his higher nature is first heard, and 
nobler impulses begin to make themselves felt in his 


actions. This appears clearly enough in the following 
passage, if sufficient allowance is made for the quaint 
phraseology in which the ideas are clothed : 

"What is the evil inclination ('yezer ra')? 19 It is said, 
the evil inclination is older than the good inclination 
(* yezer tov ') by thirteen years. From the mother's womb 
it grows up with the man. When he begins to desecrate 
the Sabbath, it makes no protest ... to do any wrong deed 
... it makes no protest. After thirteen years the good in- 
clination is born. When he is about to desecrate the 
Sabbath, it says to him: 'You idler! Is it not written, 
"They that profane it shall be put to death!" ' " 20 

This is quite typical of rabbinical views on the child 
whose "actions are mostly improper," and who is always 
prompted by animal desires. But at thirteen he becomes a 
man, responsible for his own deeds. 21 One can hear in 
this passage an echo of the primitive beliefs which invested 
the critical age of puberty with mysterious importance. 
Pubertal initiation with its rites and ceremonies was uni- 
versal among ancient peoples, and in one form or another 
has survived among many of the civilised nations of today. 
The "Barmizvah" ceremonial with its modern highly 
spiritualised content derives from the same source. 22 

But, apart from stylistic crudities, this picture of child- 
hood and adolescence is after all not so very unlike that 
given us by many modern writers. Thus Rousseau speaks 
of the child under twelve as being on the level of the 
savage man, whose only law is natural necessity. And 
Stanley Hall, the father of the child-study movement, de- 
scribes the child of this age as " not depraved, but only in 
a savage or half-animal state." He has " much selfishness 
and little sentiment." He revels in savagery, but " reason, 
true morality, religion, love, and aesthetic enjoyments are 
but slightly developed. . . ." 

Then comes adolescence, "a marvellous new birth," 


when " powers and faculties, essentially non-existent before, 
are born . . . the previous religious sentiments are re- 
generated and some arise for the first time . . . and the 
ethical life is immensely broadened and deepened. It is 
the age of sentiment and religion . . , of religious impres- 
sionability in general and of conversion in particular." 23 

Dr. Slaughter, following Hall, tells us that "the chief 
facts illustrating the new orientation of thought and feel- 
ing are present in adolescent religion. Religious sentiment 
is, at least for a time, the dominant one in the youthful 
character." He speaks not only of an awakening, but of 
"conversion" as being "the central experience of adoles- 
cent religion/' 24 Professor Wheeler in her experimental 
investigations found that " the more usual experience was 
that of a gradual awakening to spiritual values " rather 
than a sudden conversion. But she also reaches the con- 
clusion that " the generalisation that an awakening to the 
spiritual universe is natural to the period of adolescence 
can be safely drawn"; that "in a society like ours the 
search for a religion is characteristic of the adolescent." 25 

There seems to be no reason why the phenomena de- 
scribed here should be restricted to a " society like ours/' 
And, as will be seen from the Talmudic passages given 
before, the Jewish teachers of those times had more than a 
glimpse of the physiological and psychological crises accom- 
panying the transition from childhood to adolescence. 

The "good inclination," so prominent in rabbinical 
literature and later, like its counterpart, even personified, is 
not a name for reason or intelligence. " It is the paradox of 
intelligence," McDougaU tells us, " that it directs forces or 
energies without being itself a force or energy/' 26 The 
rabbis conceived it rather as an impulse or instinctive force. 
They denote it by the same term as the evil inclination 
" yezer." It is at bottom the same as the " self-regarding 
sentiment" or "the higher social instinct" of modern 


psychologists the growing sense of the unified personality. 
It is " born " during adolescence, at about the age of thir- 
teen, and begins to fight its battle for the salvation of the 
youthful soul. It is then that there begins " the quest for 
sanctity which is perpetually foiled by the bondage of the 
flesh "; the inner conflict out of which emerges character. 


The " evil inclination " was not left in unchallenged pos- 
session of the child's soul. Every available means was used 
to combat it. There was, in the first place, the study of the 
Torah on which the child entered at the age of five or six. 
But study, with all its efficacy as a builder of character, was 
not considered sufficient. In addition there was practice : 
an intensive system of training In religious observances and 
in the social customs of the community. In the words of a 
rabbi of the early second century, "The child was bent 
like the twig of a vine when it is still soft" when it 
easily responds to external pressure. 

A further comparison with Herbart at this point is not 
without interest. 

Herbart speaks eloquently of the need of bringing 
religion early into the child's life. "Religion will never 
occupy that tranquil place in the depths of the heart, which 
it ought to possess, if its fundamental ideas are not among 
the earliest which belong to recollection if it is not bound 
up and blended with all which changing life leaves behind 
in the centre of the personality." At the same time he 
recognises the danger that a human being, by continually 
fixing his mind on the idea of God " would only deform 
it it would be degraded to the common-place, even to the 
wearisome." He therefore advises us that " we should keep 
this idea less active, so that when the man needs it for his 
safety in the storms of life it is then unspoiled." " Above 


all the mind should keep Sabbath In religion. It should 
turn to it for rest from aU thoughts, desires, cares." 27 

Jewish education took the opposite line. Its view may 
be best stated in the words of the Psalmist : " I set the Lord 
always before me." The idea of God was not an object for 
reflection, or even a refuge from worldly cares. It was the 
active force of a religious system which was co-extensive 
with life, for the child as well as for the adult. The child 
was not encouraged to indulge in religious contemplation 
he was trained to live his religion. The Sabbath and 
festivals, the home, the school, and the Synagogue all pro- 
vided opportunities for his religious experiences and invited 
his active participation. Religious ceremonial with its rich 
and colourful symbolism made a powerful appeal to his 
love for ritual. Much of it was especially designed for this 
purpose. An outstanding case is the Passover night cere- 
monial in which the child is assigned a central part. It is 
due to this, more than to anything else, that this festival 
has retained its favoured position in Jewish life down to 
the present day. 

There was no fixed age for practical training. It de- 
pended upon the nature of the action and upon the mental 
rather than the physical age of the learner. " The child 
who has reached the stage of training" is a frequently 
occurring phrase. But this, as is rightly explained by a 
later commentator, did not represent a fixed point. It 
varied with the subject of training- Nor were individual 
differences ignored. " According to the child's understand- 
ing his father should teach him/' And there was a popular 
saying that "human minds are as dissimilar as human 
faces " which is strangely reminiscent of Locke's : " Each 
man's mind has some peculiarity as well as his face." 28 

Sometimes an intelligence test was employed to deter- 
mine the child's fitness for the performance of a certain 
religious observance. Thus, in connection with the " grace 


after meals," we read : " Abaye and Raba (botb children) 
sat before Kabbah. Said Rabbah to them : * To whom do 
we pray?' * To God/ they answered. * And where is God?' 
Raba pointed to the ceiling; Abaye went outside and 
pointed to the sky. So Rabbah said to them : ' Both of you 
will be scholars.' " 29 

It may be said in passing that, judging from higher 
education, the tests were not always of such a simple 
nature. They sometimes contained the type of " catch " 
which is favoured also by some modern examiners. 

That the age of initiation into religious observances 
varied with individual intelligence may be seen from the 

" A child who knows how to shake the ' palm-branch ' is 
obliged to do it." " A child who no more needs his mother 
(that is, if he does not cry for his mother when he awakes 
from sleep) is obliged to perform the commandment of 
sitting in the * booth * " during the festival of Tabernacles. 
" A child who is able to speak, his father is to teach him 
the Torah and the Shema." 30 

In the same way a child who could hold on to his 
father's hand and walk up from Jerusalem to the temple 
mount was considered to be obliged to make the pilgrim- 
age. And the school of Shammai, who generally represent 
the stricter tendency in rabbinical Judaism, would extend 
this obligation even to a child who could only ride on his 
father's shoulder. 31 Shammai, the founder of this school, 
even went to the length of providing that his newborn 
grandson should fulfil the commandment of dwelling in 
the " sukkah " (booth) for which purpose he dug out the 
ceiling over the bed and covered up the opening with 
plants, 32 

From the foregoing it will be observed that there were 
two main forces at work in shaping Jewish educational 
thought. Social and political conditions, after the destruc- 


tion of the second temple, greatly stimulated the Intelleo 
tualistic tendency. The study of the Torah became the 
chief expression of national life. But religious require- 
ments, reinforced by the current views on the nature of 
childhood, demanded attention to practical training. The 
result was a system of education in which study and prac- 
tice, learning and doing, received equal emphasis. One 
was chiefly the responsibility of the school; the other of 
the home. But there was no sharp delimitation of spheres : 
father and teacher supplemented each other's efforts in a 
spirit of eager co-operation. The efficiency of the Jewish 
school as an instrument for the preservation of communal 
life was largely due to this successful combination of the 
intellectual and the practical. It remained a characteristic 
feature of Jewish education down to the nineteenth century. 



L Memory In modern educational theory. The change of atti- 
tude towards the problem of the learning process; a result of 
the development of psychological theory and of the great expan- 
sion of knowledge. The change in the direction of educational 
aims from the past to the future; the shifting of prominence 
from the conservative to the creative aim in education. II. 
Jewish education in ancient times was mainly concerned 
with the past. Illustrations from the Talmud. III. Political 
conditions forced the people to seek a refuge in the past from 
a difficult present. The memories of the past were kept 
alive by a system of ritual and ceremonial. The school's con- 
tribution to the development of this system. " Pure " memory 
and " rote *' memory. Quintilian's views on memory. Jewish 
teachers were aware of the value of logical order and system. 
Yet Talmudic literature exhibits a " woeful lack of systematic 
arrangement." IV. The fundamental fact: Jewish educa- 
tion in Talmudic times was largely a bookless system. The 
studies in the high school were carried on without the use of 
written texts. The anxiety for preserving the sacred literature. 
The dependence upon the teacher. The position in the elemen- 
tary school. The absence of a vowel system. V. The Bible 
identifies the heart with the seat of intellectual powers. Com- 
parison with Plato and Aristotle. Illustrations from the Bible. 
The Talmudic view of memory. Superstitions about memory. 
Astonishing feats of memory. 

IN the following chapters we will deal with the methods 
of instruction in the early Jewish school. These are 
grouped together round the central theme of memory, 
with the exception of the subjects of reading, translation, 
and discipline, which are treated separately. We have 
adopted this arrangement because of the predominant 
place held by memory in classical education. Indeed, this 


may be said to form the most striking difference between 
the ancient and the modern views on method, 

The modern educationist uses the term " memory," when 
he cannot avoid it, almost in an apologetic manner. Even 
if he is not prepared to follow the behaviourist and banish 
it out of his dictionary along with other "psychological 
superstitions," he prefers to treat of the subject indirectly 
under various disguises. He is afraid of the taint of 
"faculty psychology," which seems to cling to the very 
word; and he feels somewhat uneasily that that theory has 
the knack of "coming in by the window when driven out 
through the door." 

He is, indeed, aware that, no matter what theory of 
learning he may adopt, the school cannot dispense with 
memorisation work. But, following Bergson, he is careful 
to distinguish between " pure " or logical memory, and 
merely mechanical or " rote " memory. The latter, to be 
sure, has its uses, and its working demands attention and 
investigation, but the emphasis must be placed on the 
former. And the course of " pure J * memory is dependent 
not so much upon such mechanical means as the fre- 
quency and recency of the repetition of an act, as upon the 
strength of the impression left by it, upon the learner's 
ability to see it in its various relationships, upon the 
number and nature of the formed associations. " The atti- 
" tude of the pupil must be : *I perceive this just as it is and 
in all its bearings'; not: *I must remember this.* If the 
original perception ... is what it should be accurate, 
comprehensive, and independent memory may be left 
very largely to take care of itself/' 1 

This view of memory, now almost commonplace among 
educationists, is not to be regarded as entirely, or even 
largely, the result of the development of psychological 
theory. Psychology has merely sanctioned that which life 
has rendered inevitable. The vast expansion of knowledge 



in modern times and the bewildering rapidity of its growth 
have compelled a change of attitude towards the whole 
problem of the learning process. 

In the present conditions of scientific progress it is skills 
and attitudes and methods that matter rather than the 
positive quantity of knowledge carried in the mind. Actual 
information is useful, but it is not nearly so important as 
the ability to find it when needed. The outstanding char- 
acteristic of the New Education the shifting of the centre 
of interest from the subject-matter to the learner derives 
very largely from the same cause. We no longer attempt 
"to teach all men all things"; we are content to teach 
some men how to learn, largely for themselves, a few 
things. And the measure of a teacher's success is not the 
quantity of knowledge imparted to a pupil, but the avail- 
ability of that knowledge for future use; the power acquired 
by the pupil as a result of his education to break fresh 
ground, to face and solve hitherto unencountered prob- 
lems. Aiming, as he does, not so much at knowledge as at 
the power resulting from it, the modern educationist need 
not be a cynic in order to assert that " the value of for- 
gotten knowledge is very great/' The dethronement of 
memory has been an inevitable incident in the profound 
change that has taken place in the meaning of education. 

No less significant is the change in the direction of edu- 
cational aims. Not so long ago education was mainly 
defined in terms of the preservation and transmission of 
the cultural treasures accumulated in the past. Education 
was mainly looking backward. Nowadays, whatever the 
definition of education, the future will occupy an in- 
creasingly prominent part in it. It is not so much the 
achievements of humanity but its unlimited potentialities 
that compel the attention of the educationist. The creative 
element is steadily gaining at the expense of the conserva- 
tive. This is reflected not only in the teacher's aims but 


also In Ms methods. It Is exemplified In such movements 
as the Heuristic method, the Project method, the Direct 
method in language teaching, and the Inductive method 
in grammar. Wherever he can, the modem teacher places 
his pupil In the position of an explorer who has to blaze 
his own trail; to discover new worlds, or at least to redis- 
cover the old ones, but as much as possible by his own 
efforts. In such a scheme of things mechanical memory 
can play but a minor part. For although indispensable to 
progress In the future, It is the chief method for the pre- 
servation of the past. It Is essentially the Instrument not of 
exploration but of tradition. 


These views on method would sound very strange, If at 
all comprehensible, to the Jewish teacher of Talmudic 
times. If we are to understand his point of view, the first 
essential Is a proper historic perspective. There is no such 
thing as method In the abstract; it cannot be studied In 
separation from the content, nor from the aim of educa- 
tion. And these In their turn reflect the religious, social, 
political, and economic conditions of a given period. 
Jewish education in Talmudic times, and this Is largely 
true of classical education in general, was concerned with 
the preservation of that which is rather than with striving 
for that which might be. It aimed to perpetuate a system 
of life the fundamentals of which were supposed to have 
been fixed for all time. The task of the school consisted In 
the transmission of the literature in which that system of 
life was embodied. And that literature, again, had well- 
defined limits. The principal part of it, the Hebrew Bible, 
had, in the later Talmudic period at any rate, already 
reached finality of form. The content of the other part, 
the "Oral Law," was still in a fluid state. It grew at a 


rapid rate and expanded to an enormous extent. And yet 
Its limitations were clearly recognised: the religious and 
moral fundamental principles which were regarded as un- 
alterable. The intellectual activity of the academies in 
Talmudic times reminds one of Jeremiah's description of 
the waves of the sea: "Though they toss themselves, yet 
can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not 
pass over " the boundary set " by a perpetual decree." 2 

An example will make this last point clear. An un- 
named scholar of Jamnia is reputed to have been able to 
adduce 150 arguments to prove that certain reptiles should 
be considered ceremonially clean against the explicit 
statement of the Torah. 3 The point that should be grasped 
is that even if that scholar were in earnest which he was 
not all his brilliant arguments would shatter themselves 
in vain against the rock of that biblical statement. And 
this applies to any other similar statement or even oral 
tradition. At the most these could be adjusted; they could 
never be abrogated. It was, in short, a system of culture 
and education the direction of which was towards the past. 
From the past it drew its ideals and its inspiration; from 
there, too, it had to obtain its sanction and justification for 
whatever adjustments might be forced upon it by changing 


It is beyond the scope of the present study to enquire 
into the causes for this particular direction of Jewish educa- 
tion. It will be sufficient to suggest that in the political 
conditions of Jewish life, almost throughout the period of 
which we have an historic record, the people were forced 
to seek a refuge in the past from a present which was all 
too often intolerable. 

Occasionally this flight from the present took an oppo- 
site direction and expressed itself in Messianic Utopias, in 


Ireams of an Ideally perfect state In the distant future 
:he prophetic " latter days." But even a cursory acquaint- 
mce with prophetic writings will show that it Is quite in- 
rorrect to say, as some writers do, 4 that the Jews, unlike 
>ther classical peoples, fixed their "golden era" In the 
:uture. On the contrary, the chief content of Jewish cul- 
:ure as well as of Jewish education was tradition, the 
nemories of the past, with the departure from Egypt as its 
:entral fact. These memories were kept alive by a system 
)f ritual and ceremonial wiiich In Talmudic times had 
dready achieved an extraordinary richness and variety, 
lardly paralleled in the history of any other people. 
JThroughout his life, from birth to death, the Jew was sur- 
rounded by an endless succession of sign and symbol cease- 
lessly exhorting him " to remember." 

To the development of this symbolism the school contri- 
buted Its share, collaborating with the home and the Syna- 
gogue In the practical, religious, and moral training of the 
:hlld. 5 So far It was " pure " memory that was Involved : 
-emembering ideas and meanings, the historic and religious 
significance of the rites and ceremonies into which the 
:hild was Initiated from his earliest days. But the chief 
business of the school was with literary education, with the 
preservation and transmission of the national sacred litera- 
ture. And here, unlike the practical training, the whole 
emphasis was laid by the teacher both in elementary and 
higher education on " rote " memory, assisted by mechani- 
cal, too often quite trivial, associations; arbitrary though 
sometimes ingenious " aids "; but kept going in the main 
by endless repetition. 

Judged by present-day standards these methods would 
appear to be "cruelly wasteful and educationally detri- 
mental " to use the expression of a modem writer on the 
subject of "rote memory," Even the elementary dictates 
of common sense seem to have been disregarded at least 


in the higher schools. Thus Quintilian, a contemporary of 
some of the best-known Talmudic teachers, realises that 
" the most efficacious and almost the only means " to 
ensure retentiveness, "except exercise which is the most 
powerful of all," "are di\ision and arrangement/' All 
parts that cohere together will help to guide the memory. 
" As we learn by heart verse better than prose, so we learn 
compact prose better than such as is ill-connected/' 6 

The Jewish teachers no doubt knew the value of logical 
order and systematic arrangement no less than Quintilian, 
as is evident from numerous references in the Talmud. 7 
Indeed, the collection of the Talmudic material, its division 
into volumes and the subdivision of the latter into tractates, 
chapters, and paragraphs, bears witness not only to the 
extraordinary industry of those teachers but to an organ- 
ising ability of a high order. And yet it is quite true, as 
Strack says/ that " within the (Talmudic) tractates there is 
manifested a woeful lack of systematic arrangement." The 
order according to subject-matter is departed from in 
numerous places, and statutes are collected together be- 
cause they are similar in one respect, although quite dis- 
similar in others; again, cases are brought together be- 
cause they refer to the same person, or because they go by 
the same number, or because the sentences rhyme or follow 
alphabetical order. 9 The Aristotelian Laws of Association 
(and there can be little doubt that Jewish teachers had a 
general acquaintance with them) were stretched to the 
uttermost degree and made to cover any conceivable con- 
nection between things however flimsy or accidental. 10 


We shall not be able to understand the cause of this 
" woeful lack of system " unless we grasp the fundamental 
fact that we are dealing with what was largely a bookless 


education system. For the high school this is almost 
literally true; even in the elementary school this was the 
case to a great extent. This was the determining factor 
which overshadowed all other considerations and made 
Jewish education different from any other known system. 

Whatever view we adopt as to the date of the writing 
down of the Mishnah, 11 it is certain that in the Talmudic 
high school the studies and discussions were conducted 
without the use of written copies to serve as a basis. As to 
these discussions themselves, they were certainly not re- 
duced to writing until after the close of the Talmudic age. 
There were scholars whose special function it was to carry 
in their mind the Mishnaic literature on which all the dis- 
cussions were based and who were used as a kind of living 
reference-book. Learning was locked up in the brains of 
the scholars. It was a time when a famous scholar could 
boast that " he never said anything he had not heard from 
his teachers "; and the greatest praise that could be given 
to a pupil was to call him " a plastered cistern which does 
not lose a drop." 12 Underlying all their educational 
activities was the constant anxiety for the preservation of 
the literature which, especially in post-temple times, came to 
be regarded as the justification for the people's existence. 

It would be a mistake to think that there was any lack of 
recognition for creative capacity, quickness of perception, 
or the value of system and method. The ability of logical 
deduction, of "inferring one proposition from another/' 
was highly valued. The pupil's self-activity was encouraged 
in various forms. Nor were the teachers unappreciative of 
the fact that to teach others is a sure means of widening 
as well as deepening one's own knowledge. "R. Nahman 
ben Isaac said: *Why are the words of the Torah com- 
pared to a tree, as it is said (Prov. iii. 18), "It is a tree of 
life to them that take hold of it "? To teach you that just 
as a small piece of wood sets alight a big one, so do the 


small scholars sharpen the great ones. That Is why R. 
Hanina said : " I learnt much from my teachers; still more 
from my colleagues; but most of all from my pupils." ' " 
And again : " Two students who arrange to study together 
the Holy One, blessed be He, loves them." 

The comment of the Talmud on this saying throws a 
flood of light on the conditions of education in those times : 
"This applies only to a case where there Is no teacher In 
the town from whom they might learn." This is repeated 
in other places. "He who studies by himself cannot be 
compared to him who learns from a teacher." " Provide 
yourself with a teacher and be quit of doubt." And 
again, hyperbolically : " He who says something which he 
has not heard from his teacher causes the Divine Presence 
to depart from Israel." 13 The dependence upon the teacher 
was indeed absolute and lasted for many years. "What 
the teacher did not teach the pupil cannot know " was a 
popular saying. 14 For what was the use of ability or 
method when one simply had no material upon which 
these could be exercised? 

Although the preceding discussion deals with higher 
education, it is in a large measure applicable also to the 
elementary school. The position there was somewhat 
different, since the principal subject of study the Hebrew 
Bible was available in writing. But this was not such a 
great advantage as might appear superficially quite apart 
from the fact that books, or rather scrolls, were very 
scarce and expensive. 15 For in the absence of a vowel sys- 
tem the reading depended upon tradition. It had to be 
given by the teacher and memorised by the pupil verse by 
verse. Great care was exercised in the preparation of the 
scrolls, especially in later times. One tradition tells us that 
in the times of the second temple there were public officials 
whose special duty it was to correct or revise books. There 
is also some indication that special attention was given to 


scrolls Intended for school use to keep them free from 
errors. 16 But the fundamental difficulty remained that of 
reading a text consisting practically of consonants alone. 

And so both in elementary as well as in higher education 
it was one endless grind. System and method were used 
for all they were worth, but at best their function could 
only be of a limited nature where as much, if not more, 
attention had to be given to verbal form as to ideal con- 
tent. The full weight was thrown upon mechanical 
memory, upon the sheer ability of " rote " repetition, which 
came to be regarded as the chief instrument of literary 
education. Paraphrasing a saying of Herbart's, one may 
say that to the Jewish teacher of Talmudic times the one 
and the whole meaning of method was expressed in one 
word " memory." 

There is no clear distinction in the Bible between the in- 
tellectual and the emotional aspects of consciousness, nor 
is there anything like strict consistency in connecting the 
various mental functions with particular organs of the 
body. But in a general way it may be said that the heart, 
more often than any other organ, is identified with the 
seat of intellectual and volitional powers. The brain, it 
has been rightly remarked, is " a quite neglected organ in 
Semitic thought." 17 

It may be mentioned that this is in agreement with the 
view of Aristotle, who also regarded the heart as the cen- 
tral organ of sense and intelligence and rejected the theory 
of Plato, which assigned these functions to the brain. 18 

It would be idle to seek for a theory of memory in the 
Bible, or even for any clear statement as to its nature. As 
might be expected, it was thought to reside in the heart, 
apparently being regarded as an intellectual, or rather 
volitional, action. Aristotle also assigned memory to the 


heart, but he, like Plato, stresses the distinction, of which 
the Bible it would seem did not know, between memory, 
which he does not consider a function of pure intelligence, 
and reminiscence depending on reasoning. 

"Remembering," or "recalling," is in the Bible fre- 
quently synonymous with "coming up to" or "putting 
into " the heart. And, conversely, to " forget," or " be for- 
gotten," is equivalent to " departing " or " removing " from 
the heart. "Remember this, and stand fast; bring it to 
heart, O ye transgressors," says the "second" Isaiah. So 
also Jeremiah : "... Did not the Lord remember them, 
and came it not up into his heart?" Similarly, in Deutero- 
nomy the people are warned to take heed " lest they forget 
the things they had seen and lest they depart from their 
heart." And the Psalmist exclaims that he " has been for- 
gotten out of heart like a dead man." 19 

To make a strong or a permanent impression on the 
memory is "to write it down on the heart," or on the 
" tablet of the heart." Thus Jeremiah : " The sin of Judah 
is written with a pen of iron ... it is graven upon the 
tablet of their heart." In the " new covenant," the same 
prophet tells us, the Law will be put in the people's inward 
parts, and "written in their hearts." This is a favourite 
expression with the author of the earlier chapters of Pro- 
verbs, who enjoins the hearer to write down his wisdom on 
" the tablet of his heart." The same idea is implied in the 
expression "to blot out a memory," used by various 
biblical writers : it means wiping off the writing f roin the 
tablet of the heart. 20 

It is interesting to note the resemblance of this figure of 
the " tablet of the heart " to the famous simile by which 
Plato describes the operation of memory the block of wax 
in the mind on which impressions are stamped as if by a 
seal ring, which differs in size and quality with different 
people. His other simile, that of the aviary, by which he 


Illustrates reminiscence as distinct from memory, is found 
in a somewhat different form in the Talmud, where the 
student is compared to a hunter who catches birds and 
breaks their wings one by one so as to secure possession of 
them. 21 

The Talmudic theory of psychology and there is not 
much of it that can be described by this term follows 
along traditional biblical lines. The heart is usually, 
though not always, regarded as the seat of reason and in- 
telligence and, apparently, also of memory. To Quintilian 
memory was the important faculty on which all knowledge 
depends and which requires constant cultivation. " What 
is the only great art of memory? Exercise and labour/* 
"To learn much by heart ... is the most efficacious of 
all methods," for "nothing is so much strengthened by 
practice, or weakened by neglect, as memory." The Jewish 
teachers of those times treated the matter much in the 
same way. The chief cure for all the student's difficulties 
was " to keep on sitting " at his task. But to them memory 
was more than a mere faculty. It was a mysterious power, 
fickle and capricious in its likes and dislikes. It may be- 
stow its favours on the student and so render Ms work 
smooth and successful; but it may also withdraw them for 
any trifling reason. 

Good health was a prime condition for good memory. 
This the Jewish teacher knew as well as Quintilian. 22 But 
in addition there was a wide range of other things which 
the former believed could affect memory, especially certain 
articles of food. Thus eating the heart of an animal was 
considered detrimental to memory. Memory, it will be 
remembered, was located in the heart. Food of which a 
cat or a mouse had eaten was also harmful. The worst of 
all was to eat olives: it could ruin the result of seventy 
years 7 study. But olive oil has just the reverse effect. 
Bread baked on coals, or the coals themselves, or a soft 


egg without salt were useful means of improving one's 
powers of memory. These beliefs were derived from cur- 
rent views on dietetics on which the Talmud "bestows much 
attention. " An excellent digestion " is also mentioned by 
Quintilian as a condition " greatly contributing to success- 
ful memory work." 

But there were other beliefs which to the modern mind 
must appear as utterly meaningless. To pass between two 
women, or between two camels, or to read an inscription 
on a tomb, or to put one's clothes under one's head at 
night these, among other things, were considered in some 
way to have an adverse effect on memory. These supersti- 
tions, to which others were added by later generations, 
have survived almost down to modern times, 23 

We will be in a better position to understand the con- 
ditions which stimulated the growth of these strange 
beliefs when we realise what astonishing feats of memory 
were demanded and achieved in those times. Individual 
cases of extraordinary powers of memory have been known 
at all times. 24 But the history of education knows no 
parallel to this collective feat of memory : a whole school 
system carried on with such little help from the written 
word. It is a staggering thought that the bulk of Talmudic 
literature, with its almost incredible diversity and minute- 
ness of detail, was for generations carried in the minds of 
human beings, and then, from memory, reduced to writing. 
It is even more amazing to find that people who had such a 
task on their hands could set for themselves such severe 
and exacting rules as the following, for example : 

"R. Dosetai the son of Jannai said in the name of 
R. Meir, 'Whoso forgets one word of his study, him the 
Scripture regards as if he had forfeited his life/ " 25 

To this spirit we owe the preservation not only of Tal- 
mudic literature, but also very largely of the Hebrew Bible. 



I. The method of study for the " Oral Law." The chief con- 
cern was the acquisition of the subject-matter. The method 
of higher education was also used for the Instruction of children. 
An instructive Talmudic dispute. A comparison with the 
methods of the classical Greek school. II. The Talmudic 
method compared with that of Pestalozzi. Modern views on 
the subject. The Talmudic method more justified for the 
Bible than for other subjects of study. The determining factor 
in the selection of material was not the present interest of the 
child, but that of the adult community. III. Memorisation 
was secured chiefly by means of repetition. The number of 
repetitions. Plato, Aristotle and Quintilian on memory in 
childhood. Modern opinion on this subject. The Talmudic 


THE method of study for the "Oral Law" Is formulated by 
a famous rabbi and educational reformer of the fourth 
century In the following words : " One must first learn the 
text and then enter into the reasoning of It." That is, 
first commit the text to memory, and then analyse it and 
enter into its deeper meanings and Implications. The 
authoritative comment on this passage is important for the 
understanding of the educational conditions of the period. 
"One should learn from his teacher until he becomes 
fluent in the text and Its plain meaning. After that he 
should consider what he has learnt, comparing things to 
one another, asking questions and answering them. But 
at first he must not do that, because he will waste time, and 
the teacher might not be always available. Again, after 
he has learnt much, he will get a clearer idea of his work 
and be himself able to smooth over difficulties." 1 



The chief concern was the acquisition of the subject- 
matter, for which a student was dependent upon his 
teacher. O a certain rabbi we read that at eighteen he 
knew all the six volumes of the Mishnah and yet was 
ignorant of a universally recognised rule. Which, the 
Talmud says, proves that one must first memorise and 
only then reason it out. In another place the same idea is 
even more crudely expressed: "One must always go on 
learning, even though he forgets, and even though he may 
not understand what his teacher says." The leading 
scholar of his time, Rav, we are told, had two pupils who 
were dependent upon Mm only for the text, but had no 
need for Ms explanations. 2 

From an earlier period, it is true, we have the opinion 
of a great scholar that a teacher must not content himself 
with making only plain statements, but must show his 
pupils the reasons for them. This agrees with another 
statement elsewhere that "he who understands well his 
subject will not forget it quickly." But this sound advice 
was not apparently applied to the first steps of learning. 3 

Turning now to elementary education, there is little 
evidence bearing directly on this question. All the indica- 
tions, however, point to the fact that the method of higher 
education was used also in the instruction of children. We 
read, for example, of an exceptionally bright boy who had 
memorised a biblical passage but did not know a very 
popular saying based on an obvious play of words. That 
boy was " full of questions," but apparently had no means 
of ventilating them at school. 

Elsewhere we read of cMldren given the task to teach 
one another the Bible, and even the Mishnah, which could 
hardly mean anything more than the plain reading and 
memorisation of the text. 4 

Some light is thrown on the question under discussion 
by the following instructive dispute. If we have to choose 


between two elementary teachers, one of whom covers 
more ground, but the other is more accurate in Ms work, 
who is to be given preference? According to one opinion, 
the former, because " errors will right themselves in time." 
According to another opinion, the latter, because "errors 
are Ineradicable." The latter view seems to have prevailed. 
But the very possibility of such a discussion Is significant. 
Quantity was all-important, sometimes even at the expense 
of accuracy. 5 

We may, then, conclude that the usual practice was to 
teach the children first the traditional reading of the 
biblical text and make them commit to memory certain 
passages. This first step was particularly difficult on 
account of the absence of a vowel system, and must 
have therefore claimed most of the available time. The 
next step was to give a translation, or rather a simple ex- 
planation in the vernacular, of the general meaning of the 
passages studied. This became increasingly necessary in 
later times, when Hebrew was displaced by Aramaic, and 
especially in the Babylonian and other communities out- 
side Palestine. 

A comparison with the methods of the classical Greek 
school will not be without interest at this point. There, 
too, learning by heart was considered to be of the highest 
educational value. "When the boys knew their letters 
and were beginning to understand what was written, the 
masters put beside them on the benches the works of good 
poets for them to read, and made them learn them by 
heart. They chose for this purpose books that contained 
many moral precepts and narratives and praises of the 
heroes of old, in order that the boy might admire them 
and Imitate them and desire to become such a man him- 
self/' 6 

Large quantities of the IHad and the Odyssey were learnt 
by heart. We read of a boy whom his father made to 


learn all the lines of Homer, "wishing him to grow up 
into a good man," and who was afterwards able to repeat 
the whole of the Iliad and the Odyssey from memory. 
"The attention of the boys was not simply concentrated 
on the difficulties of the Homeric vocabulary. In fact 
they were little troubled with such points," and were some- 
times quite unable to translate some hard words. 7 

The two school systems present striking similarities in 
their methods. But the Jewish boy had the harder task; 
he was sometimes made to memorise even the Mishnah, 
which was a much more difficult proposition than Homer. 
The training value of learning by heart is equally stressed 
by both. Not that those ancient teachers were entirely 
unaware of the danger of unassimilated learning, resulting 
in the production of the *' educated fool." The Talmud 
knew this type of scholar and designated him by a signi- 
ficant name "An ass carrying books." But the great 
emphasis on memorisation was due in no small degree to 
the scarcity and expensiveness of books. Furthermore, it 
should be remembered that with both, the Jews no less 
than the Greeks, literary education was supplemented by 
a richly elaborate system of practical training, thus pre- 
serving a proper balance between learning and doing. 


This method of making children commit to memory 
imperfectly understood literary matter merits some further 
consideration, if only for the reason that it persisted in the 
Jewish school down to quite recent times and has not 
entirely passed out of practice even at the present day. 
It may strike the modern teacher as uneducational and 
unintelligent. It might indeed well be called " cold-storage 
learning." But before passing a final opinion we may do 
well to bear in mind that it was a common method in quite 


modem times and that something very similar to It was 
practised by no less a teacher than Pestalozzi. Herbart, 
in describing his visit to Pestalozzi's school, tells us how he 
was made to doubt by the practices he had observed there. 
The subjects of instruction were chosen with little regard 
to the natural inclination of the children. They were 
made to memorise Isolated names, disconnected sentences 
and definitions, with a seeming carelessness whether all 
this was understood by them. He brought his doubts to 
Pestalozzi, who, in the course of his explanation, led him 
to the Idea that what really matters is that the lesson 
should be intrinsically comprehensible, rather than that 
the child should understand at once what he is taught. 
"Let the lesson give what is comprehensible and set to- 
gether that which belongs together. Time and opportunity 
will afterwards supply the concept and will correlate what 
was set forth together/* 8 

Stripped of its technical phraseology, which makes it 
more palatable to the modem mind, there seems to be little 
more in all this than the principle formulated sixteen 
hundred years before by the Jewish teacher in his less 
polished way : " One must always go on memorising even 
if he does not understand what he is doing: mistakes will 
right themselves in good time/' 

Moreover, it should be remembered that the Jewish 
elementary teacher of Talmudic times as well as his col- 
league in ancient Greece was not concerned with isolated 
sentences, definitions and similar material, but with literary 
works of great charm and beauty the Bible in which 
form was no less Important than content. The pupil would 
be helped in his studies by context and rhythm, and, in 
biblical poetry, by the peculiar structure o the verse with 
its variety of parallelisms. Such literature would, to use 
Professor Nunn's words, " grow in significance as the years 
go by and become richer and richer in meaning/' 



Herbart's comment upon Pestalozzi's explanation is that 
to a child a word, or a name, is not merely a symbol, but a 
real thing. That is why he likes to play with the sound, 
to pronounce the same words with all kinds of modifica- 
tions. This view has been further developed by Professor 
Nunn ? who sees in the child's love for routine action, for 
repeating the familiar, a desire for effective self-assertion 
a consideration which some modern teachers, in their 
anxiety to avoid " mechanical " methods, are apt to over- 
look. The same writer considers it, however, highly doubt- 
ful whether this routine tendency may be legitimately ex- 
ploited as a means of storing the child's mind with literary 
passages which he cannot be expected to appreciate for 
several years unless they have " some intelligible message 
for him." 9 

Now the Bible is seldom devoid of an " intelligible mes- 
sage" even for young children, provided the teacher, in 
selecting his material, does not lose sight of their present 
capacities and inclinations. But whilst in practical training 
the teachers of the Talmudic period showed a sympathetic 
understanding of the child's nature which was probably 
in advance of their time, it is very doubtful whether the 
same could be said of their treatment of literary education. 
The structure of the literary curriculum, as has been shown 
elsewhere, was largely conditioned by the requirements of 
the Synagogue. One result of this was to impress the child 
with the worth-wholeness of his work; to give him the 
feeling that he was engaged in an activity which formed 
part of " real " life. But the other result was that the de- 
termining factor in the selection of material was not the 
present interests of the child, but those of the adult com- 
munity into which he was being initiated. 

Such an attitude in teachers of those early times is 
hardly to be wondered at. The placing of the centre of 
interest in the pupil, the chief burthen of Rousseau's 


passionate preaching, took a long time before it received 
general recognition even in theory. When we look back 
on the history of education we may agree with Dewey that 
this idea represented " a revolution, not unlike that intro- 
duced by Copernicus when the astronomical centre was 
shifted from the earth to the sun." For in this case, too, 
" the child became the sun round which the appliances of 
education revolve." 10 This "revolution" has scarcely yet 
reached its end, but signs are already discernible of the 
impending reaction. 


Memorisation was secured chiefly by means of repetition. 
" Whoever learns the Torah but does not revise it, is like 
one who sows but does not reap ?J11 he loses the benefit of 
his labours. Various passages show us to what lengths this 
could go in higher education. 

From an early period we have a saying that " a teacher 
should repeat his lesson to a pupil four times." As to the 
pupil himself we are told that one scholar of the fourth 
century used to revise his lesson twenty-four times before 
going to his teacher. Another rabbi of the third century 
was accustomed to go over his text forty times. These 
numbers were not arrived at as a result of experimentation; 
nor were they taken at random. Twenty-four corresponds 
to the number of books in the Hebrew Bible, according to 
the Jewish arrangement; forty is the number of days spent 
by Moses on Mount Sinai. 12 It was apparently believed 
that there was a particular efficacy in this latter number, 
for we find many references to it. Thus, for instance, one 
rabbi who asked for a certain name and was given it, 
"repeated it forty times and felt as if he had it in his 
pocket." Another number is given in the following say- 
ing, which was popular down to modern times : " He who 
repeats his lesson one hundred times cannot be compared 


to Mm who repeats It one hundred and one times." Else- 
where there Is an obviously exaggerated story of a teacher 
who repeated a lesson to his pupil four hundred times! 13 

Quintilian believed that "nothing is so much strength- 
ened by practice, or weakened by neglect, as memory"; 
and that therefore " the only great art of memory is exer- 
cise and labour/' There is no evidence to show that his 
Jewish contemporaries regarded exercise as a means of 
strengthening the powers of memory. They rather acted 
on the simple idea that the more you repeat a thing the 
longer you will remember it. They were aware of what 
the moderns would call the necessity of carrying learning 
" beyond the threshold of immediate reproduction," but it 
did not occur to them that there is a saturation-point 
beyond which repetition cannot be usefully continued 
unless after an interval. 

There is little doubt that the same methods were prac- 
tised also in the elementary school. Teachers were aware 
of the child's capacity for mechanical memorisation and 
made full use of it. Both Plato and Aristotle believed that 
earliest youth and the latest age are alike lacking in 
strength of memory; and that " it is as difficult to impress 
a durable mark on their organs as on running water." But 
popular opinion never agreed with this view as far as 
earliest youth is concerned. The popular view, which held 
sway in the school down to modern times, is represented 
by Quintilian, who maintained that "memory not only 
exists in children, but is at that time of life even most 
tenacious." Childhood is therefore the time when we should 
acquire exactness, and when memory should by exercise 
be brought to such a condition that we may never learn to 
excuse its failures. 

The question whether children memorise more rapidly 
and successfully than adults is still debated by educa- 
tionists. Because of his suppleness and his love of repeti- 


tion, the child, as was already noted by Rousseau, Is un- 
doubtedly at an advantage in " rote ** memorisation. On the 
other hand, it is quite obvious that he cannot compete with 
the adult whenever logical association is required. In the 
Jewish school of Talmudic times teachers were mostly con- 
cerned with the former kind of memorisation, and great 
value was naturally attached to what was called the " learn- 
ing in childhood." The position is well summed up in the 
advice given to teachers by a leading scholar of those 
times : " Do not admit a child under six; after that admit 
him and cram him like an ox." 14 



I. Methods of memorisation. Brevity. '* Multiple stimula- 
tion." The " whole " and the " part " methods. The length 
of the lesson in higher education ; in the elementary school. 
"Tell me your verse." II. Aids to memory. Mnemonics 
arbitrary and significant. Reading aloud. Silent reading 
was discouraged. Modern views on silent reading. Quintilian's 
view. Illustrations from rabbinical literature on reading 
aloud. III. "Chanting 71 the Bible lesson. Biblical "ac- 
cents." Cantillation. Different chants for the various books 
of the Bible. Instrumental music was not taught in the 
Jewish elementary school. The Greek practice. Superiority 
of the Greek and Jewish methods over modern practice. 
IV. Interest. Rav's rule. Illustration from Maimonides. 

TEACHERS, as may be expected, gave much attention to 
methods of memorisation. Here and there we find ideas 
which, in form at least, sound quite modern, although it is 
difficult to say to what extent these were carried into 

Brevity in explanation was insisted on: "One must 
always teach his pupils in the shortest way/' The reason, 
of course, is that the pupil will have less to memorise. An 
even more modern idea is expressed m the following com- 
ment on the biblical verse, "That you may look upon it 
and remember all the Commandments " (Num. xv. 39) : 
" Seeing leads to remembering, and remembering leads to 
doing." This is quite clearly a realisation of the advantage 
of enlisting as many senses as possible " multiple stimula- 
tion," as the modern psychologist would term it. Perhaps 
there is also here a glimpse of the fact that there are 



various types of memory- and that for some the visual 
sense Is the more Important. Yet this, even if realised, was 
seldom acted upon In the school. 1 

Another question which seems to have occupied the 
mind of the Talmudic teacher was, to use modem termin- 
ology, the relative advantages of the " whole ?J and " part " 
methods of memorisation. Modem experimental educa- 
tion has given a good deal of attention to this question. 
Which Is the more economical and efficient method: to 
deal with a poem, or other similar unitary matter, as a 
whole, repeating It again and again until mastery Is 
attained, or to break it up In small parts and commit these 
to memory one by one? One recent writer tells us that 
wherever the material to be dealt with forms a unity, such 
as a poem for example, experience has shown the former 
method to be from ten to thirty per cent, more successful.* 2 

The Talmudic teachers, apparently quite regardless of 
the nature of the material, considered the " part " method 
more effective at least In theory. The question was evi- 
dently a " burning " one to judge from the numerous refer- 
ences to It. The student Is compared to a hunter catching 
birds : If he Is to secure them, he must break their wings 
one by one. "He who makes up his learning In large 
bundles will find that It will dwindle; but if he gathers it 
up little by little it will Increase." " The foolish one says : 
' Who can acquire the whole of the Torah?' but the clever 
one, what does he say? * I shall learn two laws today and 
two laws tomorrow until I have mastered the whole of 
It.' " In practice, it seems, this was not always observed: 
students know this rule, we are told, but disregard It. 
Preference for the " part " method, It may be observed, was 
not confined to Jewish teachers; it was apparently shared 
also by Qulntilian. 3 

* But see Collins and Drever : " Experimental Psychology," 
P- 32- 


This refers to higher education that Is, to the "Oral 
Law." We have some Idea of the extent of a lesson there. 
It was either two or more "laws," or the smallest subdivisions 
of a chapter of the Mishnah, as appears from the above texts; 
or perhaps a whole chapter. The same term " perek " 
stands In Talmudic Hebrew for "chapter" as well as 
" lesson." It Is therefore suggested with some plausibility 
that the actual lessons given by Judah the first, the com- 
piler of the Mishnah, to his students were afterwards taken 
by Mm as a basis for the subdivision of the tractates into 
chapters. 4 

As to the elementary school, we have no definite evi- 
dence on the question of the extent of the lesson. There 
are numerous references in Talmudic literature to the 
practice of stopping a boy and asking him for the verse he 
had learned that day. This was a typical feature of the 
Jewish education system and some illustrations of it will be 
given later. But it obviously cannot mean that one new 
verse was learned every day, for at this rate a boy would 
never go through even the Pentateuch alone. The number 
of verses in the " Five Books " is 5,845. In one place, 5 it is 
given on the authority of the " West " that is, Palestine 
as 5,848: eight less than in the Psalms, which were also 
called the "Five Books," and eight more than in the 
Chronicles. Now, even if a boy should learn a new verse 
every day of the year, it would take him about fifteen years 
to cover the Pentateuch. Besides, he would not be able to 
keep pace with the reading in the Synagogue, where the 
Five Books were completed annually or once In three 
years. 6 

The lesson must have therefore consisted of a much 
longer portion, the extent of which most probably had a 
definite relation to the weekly reading in the Synagogue. 
The children were only asked for any verse which re- 
mained in their memory. Or perhaps one verse a day 


was memorised, the rest of the passage being studied only 
for correct reading and the plain meaning, 


Various "aids" were employed in the endeavour to 
secure speedy and reliable memorisation. In the study of 
the "Oral Law" "mnemonics" figured prominently, especi- 
ally in the later Talmudic period. These may be divided 
into " significant," where the mnemonic sentence, or word, 
expresses an idea with some bearing on the subject under 
discussion; and " arbitrary " an artificial word or sentence 
giving the initial or most characteristic letters of the first 
words in a series of texts or arguments to be committed to 
memory. Sometimes the two forms are combined in an in- 
genious manner. A good example is Maimonides' well- 
known mnemonic, which consists of two words, each of 
three letters, giving the initial letters of the names of the 
six " orders," or volumes, of the Mishnah. The two words 
form a sentence with a relevant meaning, although of a 
somewhat forced nature.* Examples of both forms abound 
in the Talmud, They date mostly from a late period when 
the Talmudic material had already reached a more or less 
regular form. The objection to the writing down of the 
"Oral Law" did not extend to these "shorthand" notes, 
and students must have found them indispensable in their 
efforts to retain in memory the orderly succession of the 
arguments. This system of mnemonics, of which only a 
part has been preserved, became even more valuable later 
when the enormous task was undertaken of reducing the 
vast mass of traditional literature to written form. 7 

There can be no doubt that mnemonics were employed 
also in the elementary school, although in a more restricted 

* " ZMN NOT " (Zeman naqat), which may be interpreted : 
" Time has preserved" the literary works of the past. 


form. A well-known Talmudic text gives us a description 
of an elaborate and highly Ingenious mnemonic method 
of teaching the alphabet. It Is also suggested that the 
Hebrew vowel system in Its nature a system of mnemonics 
had Its origin in the mnemonic signs devised by the ele- 
mentary schoolmaster as an " aid " to his pupils. 8 

Another aid, to which the greatest importance was 
attached, was reading aloud. " Silent reading " that Is, 
reading for the sole purpose of getting at the thought 
behind the words was unknown. It Is, of course, quite a 
new method, and reflects the conditions of a period when 
education has become universal, and people usually go 
through large quantities of printed matter in search of 
news or ideas paying little or no attention to the reading 
process Itself. The present position Is well formulated In 
the words of Montessori : " Reading, if it is to teach the 
child to receive an idea, should be mental and not vocal." 
And again: "Graphic language the greatest acquisition 
of civilisation does not need spoken words. It can only 
be understood in all its greatness when it is completely 
isolated from spoken language.' 79 Modern teachers are 
coming to recognise that oral reading, like writing, is 
mainly a method of communicating thought to others, 
whilst silent reading Is the method of receiving thought 
from others. 

But in the period we are concerned with reading did not 
aim solely or even mainly at " receiving ideas.'* The first 
consideration was the memorisation of literary matter 
taught for the most part orally. And articulate reading 
offered an extra mechanical association of the verbal-motor 
action, of which teachers were only too glad to avail 

The views held on this subject by ancient teachers are 
well stated by Quintilian. ** To learn by heart in silence 
would be best, if other thoughts did not intrude on* the 


mind when it Is, so to say, at rest, for which reason it re- 
quires to be stimulated by the voice, that the memory may 
be excited by the double duty of speaking and hearing. 
But the tone of voice ought to be low and rather a kind 
of murmur." 7 

This would be endorsed by Quintilian's Jewish con- 
temporaries, with one modification : they would insist that 
reading should not only be articulate, but in a loud voice. 
To the modern mind this would seem a hindrance rather 
than a help to the concentration of attention. In those 
times, however, reliance was placed not so much on atten- 
tion, or interest, as on the frequency of mechanical repeti- 

"R. Ammi says: 'What is the meaning of the verse, 
" For it is pleasant if thou keep them together with thee, 
if they be established together upon thy lips "? When are 
the words of the Torah pleasant? When you keep them 
within you. And how can you keep them within you? If 
they are established together upon your lips/ " Beruriah, 
the wife of R. Heir, famous for her scholarship and clever- 
ness, once found a student who was learning quietly. So 
she rebuked him and said : " Is it not written, * Ordered in 
all and kept *? If the Torah is ordered by the help of all 
your two hundred and forty-eight limbs, it will be retained; 
if not, it will not be retained." It will be observed that 
reading aloud was not enough; the whole body had to be 
brought into play. 

Incidentally, this may throw some light on the practice, 
still prevalent amongst the students of the Talmud, of 
swaying to and fro during study. It apparently goes back 
to a very early time and was originally one of the numerous 
mechanical aids to memorisation. 10 

" Samuel said to R. Judah, his pupil, * Bright one! Open 
your mouth and read so that it may abide with you/ " 
" R. Eliezer ben Jacob had a pupil who used to study in a 


quiet voice. After three years he had forgotten all he had 
learned." Maimonides, basing himself on these and similar 
Talmudic passages, puts it down In so many words : " He 
who learns aloud retains what he has learnt, but he who 
learns quietly forgets quickly/' 11 

There is no doubt at all that the elementary school also 
used this method of reading aloud. We have references 
to the " piping voices of children " heard by people outside. 
We also know that people used to raise objections to the 
elementary teacher who wished to settle in their neigh- 
bourhood, most probably on account of the noise caused 
by the manner of study. And it should be noted that in 
early times such objections were sustained by the law, 
although later this law was explained away. 12 


It is interesting to compare the old Jewish method of 
reading aloud with the following from a well-known modern 
teacher of classics. " Only by reading aloud, and in no other 
manner whatever, can the student receive the author's 
meaning as he wished it to be received, in his order, with 
his emphasis, in the mood he wished to call up. Many a 
point I had missed in reading alone has come out clearly 
when I heard it read aloud." 13 This, of course, refers to 
expressive reading of classical poetry, or even prose, where 
the artistic form is of importance. But the Bible, and also 
the Mishnah, In the schools of Talmudic times, were not 
only read with expression; the pupils were actually made 
to sing, or at any rate to chant, their lessons. Singing, it 
has been well said, is in its essence a form of beautiful 
speaking. Biblical poetry and even prose with its 
strongly marked rhythmic structure, with its characteristic 
parallelisms, lends itself peculiarly well to musical speak- 
ing, if not to formal singing. In some passages antiphonal 


chanting seems to be demanded by the literary form. 
Many psalms belong to this category, with the " Hallel " 14 
as an outstanding example. Another example Is the 
" Song of Moses," with its vivid rhythms, changing accord- 
ing to mood, which is sometimes chanted antiphonally by 
the reader and the congregation In the Synagogue of the 
present day. 

The biblical system of "accents" (the graphic symbols 
indicating the tunes) Is of post-Talmudic origin. It was 
very probably reduced to writing at about the same period 
as the vowel system. But cantillation had been In use long 
before that time. From one Talmudic passage it may be 
inferred that there was in use a system of manual signs to 
Indicate the rise and fall of the voice, and that the right 
hand was employed for that purpose. We are told on 
reliable authority that this system of manual signs was 
used by Palestinian Synagogue " readers" as late as the 
eleventh century. 15 

It is plausibly suggested that, after being transmitted 
orally for ages, individual teachers began to introduce 
graphic symbols into their private scrolls as an aid to their 
pupils' memory, and this gradually developed into the 
various systems of accentuation. What was afterwards 
known as cantillation probably had its origin in free 
expressive reading for the purpose of bringing out more 
clearly the meaning of the text. Tradition claims to find 
a reference to it in the record of the first public reading 
of the Torah in 444 B.C.E. As a result of liturgical practice 
the tunes gradually became fixed and he who changed 
them was said "to bring evil into the world. 16 But the 
pedagogical value of cantillation was no less important 
than the liturgical, and so Its use was extended to books 
outside the Bible, such as Ben Slra, and even to the 
Mlshnah. A famous Palestinian scholar of the third cen- 
tury C.E. tells us that "he who reads the Bible without a 


tune, or the Mishnah without a chant, of him did Scripture 
say, 'And I also have given them statutes that were not 
good ' s> (Ezekiel xx. 25). But this was a gradual process 
and did not become a universal practice until the school 
had achieved its full development. 

It should be pointed out that bringing out the meaning 
of the text was not the sole purpose of cantillation, as 
some writers insist. 17 The chant was a valuable mechani- 
cal aid which greatly facilitated the fixing in the memory 
of the text itself. This will go a long way towards explain- 
ing the frequent irregularities of accentuation when mean- 
ing is apparently sacrificed to purely musical requirements. 
But these in their turn were subordinate to the need of 
enabling memory to carry quantities of literary matter 
with but scanty help from the written word, or even en- 
tirely without such help. 18 

Chanting continued to be used in the elementary school 
for many centuries after the Talmudic period. The chil- 
dren sang their Bible and succeeded in catching something 
of its spirit, although they often understood but little of 
its ideas. The chants differed for the various parts of the 
Bible, and sought to express in some way the fervour and 
passion of Isaiah, the resignation and despair of a book 
like Lamentations, as well as the sunny glow pervading 
the Song of Songs. And the children responded well to 
the various moods. 

The Jewish elementary school did not teach instru- 
mental music except for the "blowing of the horn," 
which children were perhaps taught in the earlier period. 19 
But even with this omission there is a rather striking 
similarity between the practice described in the preceding 
pages and that of the Greek classical school. 

This is how Plato describes the Greek practice : " Then, 
again, the teachers of the lyre take similar care that their 
disciple is temperate and gets into no mischief; and when 


they have taught him the use of the lyre, they introduce 
him to the poems of other excellent poets, who are the 
lyric poets; and these they set to music, and make their 
harmonies and rhythm quite familiar to the children's 
souls, in order that they may learn to be more gentle, 
and harmonious, and rhythmical, and so more fitted for 
speech and action; for the life of man in every part 
has need of harmony and rhythm/' 20 Music with the 
Greeks was closely connected with literature. " Instead of 
being a distinct art ... it was always subsidiary to the 
expression of the spirit of their literature." Poetry and 
music together formed a single art. 21 It may be suggested 
that although the purely artistic value of music was so 
much stressed in the Greek school, its function as an aid 
to memory was not overlooked. 

Both the Greek and the Jewish school of Talmudic times 
paid more attention to expression and Intonation "the 
vehicles in which . , . meaning, feeling, and emotion are 
conveyed/' " the very life-blood of language " 22 than 
many a modern school. W. H. D. Rouse relates how a 
visitor to his class once exclaimed : " This Is the first time 
I have heard Latin read in anger!" In the teaching of 
classics and even of modern languages grammar until 
recently ruled supreme. Vocabularies, paradigms, endless 
grammatical rigmaroles constituted the universally recog- 
nised method. Expressive reading was a lost art. This is 
largely true also of the Hebrew school of recent ages, which 
was pervaded by a dry linguism, although of a some- 
what different kind, as It did not pay much attention to 
formal grammar. In most modern times, the change over 
from the logical to the psychological point of view in 
educational practice, and the emergence of such move- 
ments as the " Direct method/* have done much to restore 
expression and intonation to their proper place and to 
bring back the " voice of song ** Into language teaching. 


But in this respect at all events the ultra-modern methods 
largely mean a return to the practice which was common 
in the classical Greek school as well as in the Jewish school 
of Talmudic times. 


A few words may be said on the place of interest in the 
methods of the Talmudic elementary school. There is 
sufficient evidence to show that teachers generally recog- 
nised the desirability of arousing the pupil's interest in his 
work. The views expressed on this subject sometimes 
sound quite modern. The second verse of the first Psalm, 
" But he delights in the law of the Lord/' is commented 
upon thus : " One learns (successfully) only that which his 
heart desires." Compare this with the following from a 
modern writer : " Material will not be learned by heart, at 
least not easily, unless there is a felt need for its memoris- 
ing/* 23 Yet, except in the case of practical religious educa- 
tion, it was rather an interest of an external and artificial 
character that was sought after. We read, for example, in 
one place that the wrappers of the scrolls of the Law were 
provided with bells. The purpose of these, according to 
an authoritative commentator, was to attract the attention 
of the children so that they might come to the Synagogue 
for their lesson. 24 This may be taken as typical of their 
method as a whole, which in the main relied for its success 
upon external means, such as rewards and punishments. 

There is a saying by Rav, the well-known scholar and 
educational reformer of the third century C.E., which 
affords us an insight into their attitude to the question of 
spontaneous interest and its place in the learning process. 
" One must always be engaged in the study of the Torah 
and in the performance of the Commandments, even if 
it is not for their own sake, for this will lead to an interest 
in them for their own sake/' 25 This was evidently their 


established method with children. At first external means 
were used, such as rewards and punishments, to carry the 
children over the earlier, less interesting, stages of their 
work. In this way it was hoped gradually to arouse an in- 
terest in the study for its own sake later on, when it will 
acquire meaning for them. 

Maimonides, in the celebrated passage in which he 
formulates the Creeds, gives the following description of 
this method : " Imagine a little boy who was brought to 
the teacher to be taught the Torah. Now, this is the 
greatest good for him on account of the perfection which 
he will reach by it; but because of his youth and the 
immaturity of his reason he does not understand the value 
of that good. . . . The teacher, who is more perfect than 
he, will therefore be obliged to induce him to study by 
things which in his immaturity he likes. He will say to 
him: *Read, and I will give you nuts, or figs, or honey/ 
And so he will try and read not for the sake of the read- 
ing, whose value he does not know, but that he may be 
given those dainties. And the eating of those dainties is 
dearer and undoubtedly much better in his view than the 
reading. He will, therefore, consider study to be a toil and 
a fatigue; but he will go on with it so that as a result of 
this toil he may reach his beloved end a nut, or some 
honey." 26 This description of method is all the more 
valuable since it is indirect; the writer does not deal with 
education, but uses it only as an illustration. It should, 
however, be pointed out that his list of " inducements ** is 
not complete: punishments played a not less important 
part than rewards. 



I. Monroe on the teaching of reading in the Greek school. 
The peculiar difficulties of Hebrew. Illustration from the 
Talmud. II. The teaching of the alphabet. The alphabet 
as material for moral and religious instruction. III. The 
next step after the alphabet. Three methods of teaching read- 
ing the alphabetic, the synthetic and the analytic. Neither 
of these was available to the Jewish teacher of Talmudic 
times. Dr. Kennedy's view on the teaching of reading in the 
early Jewish elementary school. Criticism. The only method 
possible in the circumstances. IV. The suitability of some 
form of this method for the modern Hebrew school. V. The 
possible contribution of the Talmudic elementary school to 
the development of the Hebrew vowel system. Pinsker and 
Weiss on this subject. Illustration from the Midrash. 

DR. PAUL MONROE says the following of the teaching of 
reading in the schools of classical Greece. 

". . .In reading there was much more educational 
value than with us, because of the important training in 
power of discrimination or in judgment in the use of 
accent; and, similarly, since the words were written con- 
tinuously without a break, in the separation of one word 
from another. Likewise there was no punctuation, so that 
it was necessary that the child should get the idea in order 
that the reading might even be intelligible." 1 

Whether there is any particular educational value, or 
training in power, in such a study is doubtful. It looks 
rather like making a virtue out of necessity. It may be 
mentioned in this connection that similar claims have been 
put forward at one time or another for almost any subject 



whose utility was questioned. Teachers of classics in par- 
ticular, instead of emphasising the general cultural value 
of their subject, often fall back on this plea of " mental 
discipline," and thus expose themselves unnecessarily to 
the attacks of the psychologist who questions their assump- 
tion of the transfer of the effects of training from one sub- 
ject to another 

At any rate, if the reading of Greek was difficult, the 
reading of Hebrew in Talmudic times was infinitely more 
so. The texts consisted practically only of consonants and 
the vowels had to be supplied mentally by the reader. O 
course, the child would be helped by meaning, context and 
the peculiar rhythmic structure of the biblical verse with its 
various forms of parallelism. And yet an enormous weight 
was thrown upon memory. Even with a book in front 
of him, half his reading would consist of memory work. 

A good illustration of the difficulties of the teaching of 
reading will be found in the legend about David and Joab. 
A word consisting of three consonants " 137 " could be 
read to mean either " the remembrance," or " the males. 5 * 
According to the legend the latter reading was given, to 
Joab by his teacher, and this determined his action in the 
war with Edom. 2 


The children were naturally taught first of all the alpha- 
bet the names of the letters, their forms, their sounds, and 
perhaps also their numerical value, seeing that letters were 
so often used as numbers. The order of the letters was 
varied in several ways: at first the regular order; then the 
first and the last, the second and the second last, and so on. 
It is not quite dear whether tMs was merely a matter of 
method or whether the children were also given the form of 
the alphabet caHed " Atbash," in which the letters change 
places as well as powers. Traces of this form are found 


already in the Bible. 3 It is not, however, easy to see what 
use the children could be expected to make of it. 

Children have always found the alphabet a difficult sub- 
ject, and teachers throughout the ages have exercised their 
brains in the invention of pedagogical devices to make it 
more attractive. Few children were in the position of 
that Greek boy for whom his father bought twenty-four 
slaves, giving to each the name of a letter in the alphabet. 
A more economical idea was " the ginger-bread method " 
of a later century. The letters were made of ginger-bread, 
the child eating those which he could name. Basedow, an 
enthusiast of this method, urged that every school should 
have a special school baker. He considered that, in order 
to learn it, it would not be necessary for any child to eat 
the alphabet more than three weeks. 

It is perhaps not without significance that in artistic 
Hellas the alphabet was put into verse. This formed a 
prologue to a kind of spelling drama, or comedy, which 
was set to music. 4 On the other hand, among the more 
religiously minded Jews of the Talmudic period the 
alphabet was sometimes used as material for moral and re- 
ligious instruction. How this was done will be seen from 
the following passage, which is given here in extenso on 
account of its historical as well as pedagogical value. 5 

" The sages said to R. Joshua ben Levi : * The children 
came today to the house of study (" beth-midrash ") and 
said things the like of which had not been said even in the 
days of Joshua, the son of Nun : 

" Aleph, Beth " (3, K) = " learn understanding/' 6 

(" Aleph binah " in Hebrew. The actual Hebrew words 
are given wherever relevant.) 

"Girnd, Daleth" (1, J)="deal kindly with the poor." 


" Why is the foot of the Gimel stretched forth towards 
the Daleth?" 


" Because It is the way of the charitable man to run after 
the poor/" 

"And why is the foot of the Daleth stretched forth 
towards the Gimel?" 

" That he (the poor) should let himself be found " (by 
the charitable man without giving him too much trouble). 

" And why is the face of the Daleth turned away from 
the Gimel?" 

" Because he is to help him privately so as not to cause 
him shame," 

"He, Waw " (I H)=" this is the name of the Holy One, 
blessed be He." 7 

"Zayin,Heth ? Teth,Yod,Kaph,Lamed n (^ D, S D> H. ?)= 
"if you behave like this, 8 the Holy One, blessed be He, 
will feed (*Zan J ) you; and be gracious ('ban*) to you; 
and deal well with you (* metiv *); and give you a heritage 
(* yerushah '); and adorn you with a crown (* kether *) in the 
world to come (* leolam haba ')" 

" The open Mem and the closed Mem " (D, 23)=" a saying 
(* ma'amar J ) which may be revealed, and a saying which is 
to remain concealed." 9 

" The bent Nun and the straight Nun " (| 3)=" the pious 
man (* ne'eman 7 ) is bowed in this world but erect in the 
world to come," 

"Samekh, 'Ayin" (,D)=" support the poor ('semokh 
aniyim 9 )." 10 

"The bent Pe and the straight Pe" (5j. S)="thc open 
mouth (* peh ') and the shut mouth " (when necessary). 

"The bent Sade and the straight Sade" (|M)="the 
righteous man ('saddik*) is bowed in this world, but will 
be upright in the world to come/* 

" Qof " (p)=" the Holy One f Qadosh y ; 

" Res " (n)=" the wicked f rasha *)** 

"Why is the face of the Qof turned away from the 
Res?" 11 


" The Holy One, blessed be He, says : * I cannot look at 
the wicked.' " 

"And why Is the crown of the Qof turned towards the 

" The Holy One says : * If he repent, I shall adorn him 
with 3. crown like mine/ " 

"And why is the foot of the Qof suspended?" 12 

" So that if the wicked repent, he may enter " (unto the 
Holy One). 

" in " (B0=" falsehood (' sheker )." 

" Taw " (H) = " truth (' emeth ')" 

" Why are the letters of the word denoting * falsehood * 
near one another, and those denoting * truth ' far from one 
another?" 13 

"Because falsehood is common (near), whereas truth is 
uncommon " (far to seek). 

"And why does 'falsehood' stand on one leg, whilst 
* truth ' is broadbased, as if on bricks?" 14 

" Because truth will abide, falsehood will not." * " 

An examination of this illuminating passage will show 
that the lesson (assuming it to represent an actual lesson, 
or series of lessons) had a threefold objective: the shapes 
of the letters; their sounds; and, particularly, their names. 
Some of the mnemonic words are almost identical in their 
pronunciation with the names of the letters for which they 
are made to stand; 15 some begin with the respective letters 
they represent, and are thus helpful in recalling the sound; 
others, again, have the peculiarities of their shapes skilfully 
brought out through the medium of the moral sayings for 
which they serve as symbols. It may be said that this 
method of teaching the alphabet is in many respects 
superior to the contrivances used for the same purpose by 
some modem teachers. 

It is necessary, however, to point out that this must not 
be taken (as is done by some writers) to have been the usual 


method of teaching the alphabet." It is not Impossible 
that it represents a homily, delivered in the Synagogue to an 
adult audience. The alphabet has always been a favourite 
subject with the preacher as well as with the mystic But 
even if used in a school, it was by no means a common 
method. In the first place, it implies Hebrew as the 
vernacular of the children, which was not the case in 
Babylonia, nor even in Palestine in the later Taknudic 
period. Besides, the introductioii "The children said 
things which had never been said before'* shows quite 
clearly that it was the work of a particular teacher or 
preacher with an inventive turn of mind, It was not 
known before Mm; nor, as far as the evidence goes, was it 
commonly used after him. 17 


But the alphabet was only the first step. What was the 
next? We know what it was in Greece* for instance. This 
is how it is described. " First we learn the names of the 
letters . . . then their several forms and values, then syllables 
and their modifications, and finally nouns and verbs and 
connecting particles, and the changes they undergo. Then 
we begin to read and to write, at first syllable by syllable, 
very slowly, and then more rapidly, as we acquire some 
familiarity/' 18 

This is in the main the time-honoured alphabetic method 
of teaching reading. It was current in the world's schools 
from the days of classical Greece down to almost our own 
times. Practically all teachers are now agreed that it was 
a method which never taught anybody to read: the chil- 
dren, as one writer aptly puts it, " learning in spite of it/* 19 

In the latter half of the nineteenth century It began to be 
displaced by the phonic, or phonetic, method. This was 
by no means a new discovery* It originated in the sixteenth 
century, and both Rousseau and Pestalozzi, not to mention 


others, were among its elaborators. But it found wide 
recognition only in recent times. It is a synthetic method, 
and the procedure is still from the part to the whole. 
Instead of the names, the sound values of the letters are 
given; these are combined into syllables; then into words, 
connected phrases, and so on. 

At about the same time, there came into use the analytic 
method, which follows the principle of going from the 
whole to the part, and lays particular stress on the thought- 
element in reading. What that whole is to be there is con- 
siderable divergence of opinion. Some take the word as 
the unit; others begin with the phrase; still others with 
the sentence, or even the connected passage. Only after 
the children have acquired a sufficiently large vocabulary, 
which they can recognise and read at sight, is the work of 
analysis begun: the words are broken up into their com- 
ponent phonograms, and these are used for the formation 
of new words. 20 

We shall now be able to see our problem more clearly. 
The Jewish teacher of Talmudic times could use none of 
the methods described here. The Hebrew he taught had 
no established vowel system. It was therefore equally im- 
possible for him to go either from the part to the whole or 
from the whole to the part. In fact, no known method 
would do for his case. 

A. R. S. Kennedy, perhaps the only writer who touches 
upon this question, suggests that after the alphabet ** the 
teacher copied a verse which the child had already mastered 
by heart, and taught him to identify the individual 
words/' 21 

It is necessary to point out at once, before entering Into 
pedagogical considerations, that there is no evidence at 
any rate, as far as the writer is aware supporting this 
suggestion. Such a method is nowhere mentioned, and for 
very good reasons, as will be seen presently. As to the 


implication that children were made to memorise verses 
presumably biblical before they read them in the book, 
this is contrary to all that is known of the practice of the 
school The elementary teacher is called ss he who makes 
the children read/ 1 in contrast with the teacher of the 
Mishnah, who is called " he who teaches off by heart." 22 
The common practice seems to have been for the children 
first to read in their books, and then to memorise at least 
one verse a day. To this there were apparently two excep- 
tions : Deuteronomy vi. 4 and xxxiii. 4. These verses the 
child was taught as soon as he began to speak, but by the 
father at home a custom which has survived to the present 
day. 23 

But quite apart from this, the method suggested by Dr. 
Kennedy would be impracticable for religious reasons. 
There was no other material from which the verses could 
be taken except the Bible. The liturgy was not to be 
reduced to writing, and the prohibition applied also to the 
" Oral Law." But the writing of biblical verses and a great 
many would be required if any results were to be accom- 
plished was surrounded with so many restrictions that 
the teacher would find it of no practical use. 24 

Nor was the reading of individual words, from a religious 
point of view, such a simple matter as it appears on the 
surface. In the Synagogue it was considered doubtful 
whether one reader might stop in the middle of a verse 
and another continue from that place. A significant con- 
cession was made in this respect for children. R. Hanina 
Qara says: "I had much trouble with R. Hanina the 
Great, but he did not permit stopping in the middle of a 
verse, except for children, since they do it for practice. 112 * 
This concession, it will be observed, only went as far as 
stopping in the middle of the verse: there could be no 
question of resolving it into single words. 

But even if aE the religious objections were disregarded, 


this method must be rejected on pedagogical grounds. 
Nothing of any value could be achieved by it. It would be, 
in fact, not a solution but an aggravation of the difficulty. 

The word cannot be successfully used as a reading unit 
unless as in the analytic method after being taught as a 
whole it is resolved into its component sounds or phono- 
grams* But in Hebrew this analysis could not be done 
because of the lack of vowel signs. To break up a Hebrew 
word would not mean to take it to pieces, which could 
then be recombined in a different way, but simply to destroy 
its value as reading material. The word therefore had to 
be taken as a whole. But the same group of consonants 
which the boy would be taught to read as a certain word 
in one verse would be read in a totally different manner in 
another verse. 

One illustration will suffice. The three consonants, *1 1 *T> 
may be read in eight or nine different ways, according to 
the vowels with which they are combined. 26 This is true, 
although not always in the same degree, of almost any 
other three compatible consonants; and of course to a 
much smaller extent also of groups of two letters. From 
the point of view of the mechanics of reading, words such 
as these are like blank cheques. What is to be written on 
them can be determined only from a meaningful context. 
Separated from it, their whole value is lost. 

Now, what could a teacher do with such material? 
There can be little doubt as to what method he would use. 
He would not attempt the impossible : teaching single words. 
More than that : reading as a subject for itself, independent 
of a particular text, did not exist for him at all; there was 
no means of teaching it. In fact, it is nowhere mentioned. 
Reading in those times always meant the reading of a 
special book the only book available, the Bible. 27 Writers 
who speak of " reading " as a separate subject some even 
speak of " reading, writing, and arithmetic " (the three R's) 


are projecting the conditions of their own time into the 
school of the Talmudk period. Reading did not emerge 
as a separate subject until the vowel system was evolved, 
that is, some centuries after the period with which this 
chapter Is concerned* 


In the schools of Talmudic times the children were first 
taught the alphabet, after which they were taken straight 
to the Bible, where they were trained to read a verse as a 
whole. The longer verses were sometimes divided Into two 
parts. The manner of reading had to be memorised , but 
In this the children were greatly helped by meaning and 
context. Of all the known methods this comes nearest to 
that form of the analytic which teaches the child to recog- 
nise at sight a sentence as a whole, and stresses the im- 
portance of context and thought element, It was thus to 
some extent an anticipation of one of the most modem 
methods of the teaching of reading, but, It should be 
remembered, from necessity and not from choice. Also It 
was an? analytic method minus the analysis; that could not 
be done In the absence of vowel signs. 

Intensive practice and constant revision were essential 
with such a method, and It was always necessary to be on 
guard against the tricks of memory. The following incident 
Is instructive in this respect. A great scholar, who had 
given up study for a time, came to a certain Synagogue and 
was called up to read a portion of the Law. The passage 
happened to be Exodus xli, In which the second verse 
begins with the words : " This month shall be unto you." 
But he was out of practice, and the words were misread by 
him to mean : " Is their heart dea?" 2S 

It may be noted here that the analytic method, in some 
form or another, would be more suited to the peculiarities 
of the Hebrew language than the phonic method which is 


at present in general use in the Jewish elementary school. It 
is computed that the thirteen English vowels have between 
them one hundred and four sounds, and that fourteen per 
cent, of English words are unphonetic. 29 Hebrew cannot 
boast of quite such a record, and yet it is, in its own way, 
as unphonetic as English. Instead of the same letter 
changing its sound under the influence of the context, two, 
or even three, letters may have the same sound. This 
peculiarity of Hebrew gave trouble already in Talmudic 
times. 30 In the present state of Hebrew phonetics there are 
thirteen letters each of which shares its function with some 
other one. 31 This naturally leads to trouble in the teaching 
of reading, and, particularly, spelling. 

Another peculiarity is that the vowels are not, as in other 
languages, found in the same line with the consonants, but 
more usually beneath them. This necessitates, especially 
in the initial stages, two different eye movements, vertical 
and horizontal, and obstructs the acquisition of that smooth 
movement of the eye along the line which is the chief con- 
dition for good reading. There are also other difficulties 
which cannot be discussed here. 32 A radical solution for 
all these problems would be the adoption of some form of 
the analytic method which would train the child to the 
recognition at sight of the sentence, or at least the word, as 
a whole, the analysis to follow after. This method would 
be especially suitable for Palestine where Hebrew is the 
children's vernacular. 

There is one other matter which may be noticed in con- 
nection with the subject of this chapter. The evolution of 
the Hebrew vowel system, or rather systems, was a long 
and slow process which was not completed until about the 
eighth century C.E. It is a work of great complexity in 
which many people in different places collaborated. To 


the patient labours of these people we largely owe the 
preservation of the Bible. 

Now the question naturally arises: What part did the 
school play in this effort? 

The suggestion was made long ago by S. Pinsker, and 
supported afterwards by I. H. Weiss and others, that the 
elaborate vowel system which we have in our possession 
took its rise in the elementary school. 33 It is a plausible 
idea which well deserves consideration. The absence of 
vowels affected the teacher's work more seriously than that 
of any other person. For he, it should be remembered, 
was expected to teach little children such difficult books as 
the Pentateuch or the Psalms. For a modem English 
teacher to realise what that meant he would have to 
imagine himself obliged to teach children of six or seven 
such a book as Chaucer, for instance, out of a text consisting 
practically of consonants alone. Such a teacher would be 
an extraordinarily dull person if he did not contrive some 
means to remedy a defect which made his position almost 

There is a Midrashic passage which affords us a glimpse 
of the difficulties which the children usually experienced. 
The functions of the four vowel letters ( H> I *) were not 
quite fixed, nor was their use uniform. Nevertheless the 
children would come to associate these letters with the 
particular sounds for which they stood most frequently. 
Thus, for instance, the sound ** o " would become associated 
with the " Waw " and the sound " e " with the " Tod." In 
the absence of these letters their corresponding sounds would 
not readily occur to the mind, but rather some different 
sounds not usually associated with them. So the Midrash 
tells us the children would read * f Masfoeh " for " Mosheh " 
(Moses), " Aharan " for " Aharon " (Aaron), and " Ephran " 
for "Ephron," because in all these words the vowel letter 
is missing. 84 Now the teacher* to help them 


along, would Introduce, In his private scroll, a small 
" Waw " into these words to indicate the missing letter. 
This small letter would gradually be contracted into a 
symbolic dot the defective " o." Similarly a missing 
" Yod " would be indicated by a small letter, later on con- 
tracted to a dot, and placed beneath the consonant the 
defective, or short " e." From these beginnings, consisting 
originally of a small letter, a dot, or a stroke here and there, 
there gradually developed that imposing and complicated 
system which stands as a monument to the industry and 
ingenuity of the ancient Hebrew grammarians. If there is 
any foundation for this idea, the elementary teacher of Tal- 
inudic times would deserve well of all those who value the 
Bible for religious, historic, or literary reasons. 



I. Translation as a method of language instruction origin- 
ated In the early Jewish school. The Jewish method of trans- 
lation of the present day has behind it a tradition of twenty- 
five hundred years. II. The method of translation in the 
early school was similar to that of the Synagogue. Transla- 
tion in the Synagogue was not a complete rendering, but rather 
an explanation. Reasons for this practice. The translation 
was recited from memory and not from a written text. Reasons 
for this. The unit for translation was one or more whole 
verses. The method compared with modern practice. III. 
The deterioration of the method of translation in post-Talmudic 
ages. Modern controversies about methods of language teach- 
ing. The objections to translation are less applicable to the 
ancient Jewish than to the more modern forms of the method. 

THE complex historical problems of the origin and develop- 
ment of the various translations of the Bible are outside 
the scope of this work. There is a considerable literature 
on the subject to which the interested reader may be re- 
ferred. 1 Here we are concerned only with the educational 
aspect of the question, which has so far received little, if 
any, attention. 

The subject cannot fail to prove of some interest to the 
student of the history of educational method and, particu- 
larly, to the language teacher. For translation as a method 
of instruction originated in the Jewish school, as a result 
of peculiar historical conditions, some centuries before the 
current era. In those early days It was used for the In- 
struction of adults in connection with the Synagogue service 
in which the Scripture lesson formed the central part. The 


elementary school, which came into being later, had found 
this method already well established and adapted it to its 
own requirements. The method of translation, which is 
still employed in most Jewish schools outside Palestine at 
the present day, has therefore a tradition of some twenty- 
five centuries behind it. During this long period the Jewish 
people has spread into almost every corner of the globe, 
and has as a result changed its vernacular again and again. 
But the method stood the test of time, displaying some- 
thing of the adaptability characteristic of the people 
amongst whom it arose. At the present day Hebrew is 
translated by the Jewish teacher into every European and 
many non-European languages. Here and there the 
" Direct method " has been introduced, as in the non-Jewish 
school; but nowhere, outside Palestine, has it succeeded in 
completely dislodging translation from its recognised posi- 
tion as the chief means of instruction in the Hebrew class. 


There can be no doubt at all that the pupils of the 
Jewish elementary school in Talmudic times, both in Baby- 
lonia as well as Palestine, were given an Aramaic translation 
of their lessons from the Bible. Similarly, in the communi- 
ties where Greek was the spoken language among the Jews, 
such as Egypt, these lessons were translated into Greek. It 
may indeed be suggested that the Septuagint, like the 
Aramaic translations, was intended to meet the require- 
ments of the school no less than those of the Synagogue. 

Our sources supply us with no direct information on this 
subject. We know, however, from the Mishnah that 
minors that is, children under thirteen used to read and 
translate the lesson from the Scripture in the Synagogue, 
and that they were prepared for this by their teachers. 2 
This, together with the fact, established in an earlier part 


of this work s that the service of the Synagogue formed the 
central feature of the curriculum of the school, entitles us 
to the assumption that the same method, except perhaps 
for minor differences, was followed in both institutions. 

What was the nature o that method, its essential char- 
acteristics? What was it intended to achieve, and how did 
it work in practice? Finally, how does it compare with 
modem methods of language teaching? 

To be able to answer these questions satisfactorily we 
have to bear in mind the following considerations. The 
lesson from Scripture in the early Synagogue had a defin- 
itely practical aim: to give the people guidance in re- 
ligious, especially in ceremonial, matters. Education as a 
permanent institution with no direct relation to Immediate 
needs did not arise until much later. And it took many 
centuries before Jewish teachers reached the idea of " study 
for its own sake " a peculiarly Jewish idea which domin- 
ated the school down to the end of the eighteenth century. 3 

The earliest reference to such a Scripture lesson read in 
public is found in the well-known passage in Nehemiah. 
chapter viii. There we are told that as the result of such a 
reading the people made booths and dwelt in them, in 
celebration of the festival of Tabernacles something which 
"they had not done since the days of Joshua the son of 
Nun/' With such an end in view it was ideal content that 
mattered rather than verbal form. The reader's, or the 
teacher's, concern was to extract the thought from a given 
passage; he was content to leave the words to take care of 

Another important influence which tended in the same 
direction arose from the fact that when the synagogue 
readings were instituted Hebrew was stiU the language 
commonly spoken among the people. There had, how- 
ever, already begun that transitional stage during which 
in the learned circles the classical Hebrew of the Scrip- 



tures developed into the Neo-Hebrew of the Mishnah; 
whilst among the people in general Aramaic was gradually 
establishing itself as the vernacular. Many of the biblical 
passages which had a practical bearing on questions of 
ritual and ceremonial were no longer understood in their 
original form by the mass of the people. They had become 
archaic, or had acquired a different meaning as a result of 
the development of tradition. The teacher's task was there- 
fore not to translate (which, in the circumstances, would 
have been of little use), but rather to paraphrase and ex- 
plain the difficult phrases and expressions and, in general, 
to supply a running commentary to the passages in 
question. It was in the nature of a literature lesson as given 
in the modern school. So we find that the earliest name of 
the professional teacher, as distinct from the priest to 
whom people came for occasional advice, was "one who 
explains," or "one who causes to understand." 4 A good 
illustration of this method of teaching we find in the 
chapter of Nehemiah referred to above. Verse eight, 
which some commentators consider obscure, may be trans- 
lated as follows : " And they read in the book, in the Torah 
of God, explaining it and giving the meaning, and they 
made (the people) understand the reading/' 5 This is as 
good a description as can be given of the then current 

In its earliest form, therefore, the translation of the 
Scripture lesson in the Synagogue was not a complete 
rendering into any other language, but rather an explana- 
tion of difficult phrases or expressions. But in the mean- 
time the Synagogue service was becoming stereotyped, 
while, on the other hand, Aramaic supplanted Hebrew as 
the people's vernacular. As a result the earlier explanation 
developed either into a literal translation or into a free and 
loose exposition. Authoritative opinion refused to sanction 
either of these extremes and insisted on the original 


method. Thus a well-known teacher of the second century 
gives it as Ms view that " he who translates a verse literally 
is a liar; and he who adds to it is a blasphemer. 196 The 
desirable method is neither what the modem teacher would 
call a mechanical " transverbalsation * y nor yet a fanciful 
exposition, but a rendering according to the sense. 

Another feature worthy of notice is that the translation 
in the Synagogue had to be recited from memory and not 
from a written text. The reason usually given is that a 
proper distinction should be preserved between the original 
of the Bible and the Aramaic version. But another reason 
may be suggested: to prevent the translation becoming 
fixed and frozen, as it were, and so ceasing to be an ex- 
planation as originally intended. It is for the same reason 
that the modern school puts a ban on so<alled "cribs." 

The unit of translation in the Synagogue was one whole 
verse for the Pentateuch; but two or three verses from the 
Prophets might be taken at once. 7 This is a rather more 
important matter than appears on the surface. Although 
it cannot be said that in determining the unit of transla- 
tion pedagogical considerations alone were taken into 
account, 8 yet this method is in agreement with modern 
scientific opinion. Most language teachers now accept the 
view that the isolated word is neither a unit of speech nor 
a unit of thought, but merely a lexicographical unit which 
may have its legitimate place in the dictionary. Some, like 
Gentile, for instance, would leave no room for it even 
there. It receives its meaning and particular colouring 
from its place in a connected context the sentence. But 
the sentence is not just the sum total of its constituent 
words. There is something more: the relation and con- 
nection of these words, their order and arrangement. But 
it is this " something more/' which expresses what is usually 
called the " genius of the language," that is likely to escape 
the learner, unless a passage, or at least the sentence, be taken 


as a connected whole. All this, it may be added, is even 
more true of Hebrew than of other languages, on account 
of the symmetric structure of its sentence and the remark- 
able flexibility of its word order. 

It is interesting to find that Quintilian shared the view 
of his contemporary Jewish teachers as to the desirability 
of dealing with a connected sentence rather than a single 
word. "A single word," he tells us, "is more likely to be 
faulty than to possess any intrinsic merit : for although we 
may speak of a word as appropriate, distinguished or sub- 
lime, it can possess none of these properties save in relation 
to connected and consecutive speech; since when we praise 
words, we do so because they suit the matter/* 9 


The intimate association between school and Synagogue, 
which has been often stressed by us, renders it highly prob- 
able that both institutions employed essentially the same 
method in their treatment of the Bible lesson. This 
method had two principal features: the connected verse 
as a unit and a free rendering in the vernacular according 
to the sense rather than the letter of the text. There is 
some ground for believing that the lesson in the school was 
conducted in the following manner : first a reading of the 
verse in the original; then a translation, or explanation in 
the vernacular; and finally, another reading in Hebrew 
alone, TMs, at any rate, would seem to have been the 
practice of the individual student. 10 The translation was 
therefore used only as a means of providing a quick 
approach to the meaning of the text and was discarded as 
soon as it accomplished its function. 

In post-Talmudic ages the method of translation in the 
Jewish school gradually deteriorated until it lost all the 
pedagogically valuable elements once so prominent in it. 


The verse was no longer taken as a whole, but broken op 
Into so many separate words, which were treated as units 
for the purpose of translation regardless of their gram- 
matical peculiarities or their place in the sentence. And 
instead o a free and flexible explanation, a rigid translation 
was demanded for each separate word. The result was 
often that the children did not see the wood for the trees 
and the Bible lesson became little more than a dry linguistic 
exercise. This form of Instruction survived all the attacks 
of educational reformers and Is at the present day still In 
use In the Jewish school in various parts of the world. 11 

Translation as a method of language teaching has been 
the subject of heated controversies In recent times. One of 
the earlier pioneers of the " Direct method/* Victor, con- 
sidered that translation was an art which did not belong 
to the school. Others, less extreme, would yet drastically 
restrict its use. Thus a prominent English educationist 
tells us that the premature demand for It results In the 
pupil's murdering both languages impartially. And the 
translator outside the school, especially he who follows the 
text too literally, has come In for many an uncomplimen- 
tary epithet which reminds us of the dictum of the ancient 
Jewish rabbi. So, for instance, according to R. L. Steven- 
son, "a translation is like the wrong side of a piece of 
tapestry; it is a blackguardly travesty." 12 At any rate the 
least objectionable form of it as far as the school is con- 
cerned would seem to be that of the Jewish teacher In 
Talmudic times: the connected verse, or sentence, as a 
whole; a free explanation in the mother tongue; and finally 
an expressive reading in the original alone. In this form 
the method Is less likely to interfere with the attainment 
of the recognised aim, of language learning: the establish- 
ment of direct association between experience and expres- 



I. Comenlus on discipline. Quotation from the ** Ethics of 
the Fathers.** A picture of the Talraudic elementary school. 
II. Severe discipline was rendered necessary by the form of 
the organisation. Another cause of the severity of discipline 
was the ** spirit of the times." Theories of punishment in the 
Bible. III. Ideas on punishment in Talmudic times. Com- 
parison with the Hellenistic school. The manner of flogging. 
Children's reactions to flogging. The offence of "talking." 
Flogging as a stimulus to intellectual effort. Pupils were ex- 
pected to perform little offices for their teachers. The story of 
the boy SamiteL Severity of chastisement. Illustrations from 
the Talmud. Rewards. The story of the saintly teacher. 

"THE very sun in the heavens gives us a lesson on this 
point (discipline). In early spring, when plants are young 
and tender, he does not scorch them, but warms and 
invigorates them by slow degrees, not putting forth his 
full heat until they are full-grown and bring forth fruit 
and seeds. ... In the same way a musician does not strike 
his lyre a blow with his fist or stick, nor does he throw it 
against the wall, because it produced a discordant sound; 
but, setting to work on scientific principles, he tunes it and 
gets it into order. Just such a skilful and sympathetic 
treatment is necessary to instil a love of learning into the 
minds of our pupils, and any other procedure will only 
convert their idleness into antipathy and their lack of 
interest into downright stupidity." 1 

It is difficult to realise that a man like Comenius, who 
could write so movingly about children, should declare 
almost in the same breath that it is an " incontestable fact 



that punishment should be employed towards those who 
err." He does, It Is true, make a distinction between an 
offence against God and an offence against Prisclan that 
is, between moral delinquency and Intellectual incapacity, 
The former only is " a crime and should be expiated by an 
extremely severe punishment/' But among these " crimes " 
are included not only blasphemy and obscenity, but also 
" disobeying the master's orders," envy and idleness! 2 

After this the reader will perhaps be less surprised at 
the inconsistencies and contradictions in the views on the 
child which we meet so often In rabbinical literature. In 
their own way the rabbis could speak of childhood almost 
as beautifully as Comenius. Listen, for example, to the 
following : 

" Every day an angel goes out from the presence of the 
Holy One, blessed be He, to destroy the world and turn It 
into nothing. Then He bethinks Himself of the school- 
children and immediately His anger is turned Into mercy. f?s 

Many similar passages are scattered throughout Tal- 
mudlc literature. But these mostly belong to preachers, 
or to educational leaders and reformers. They show us 
only one side of the picture. To see the other side, we 
have to follow these " little saviours," to whom our sinful 
world owes its daily escape, into the schoolroom and see 
the actual conditions of their daily work. 

The following well-known text from the " Ethics of the 
Fathers " will afford us some idea of the general atmosphere 
of the school. 

" This is the way for the study of the Torah : bread and 
salt thou must eat, and water by measure thou must drink; 
upon the ground thou must sleep, and live a life of priva- 
tion the while thou toilest in the Torah, If thou doest 
thus, * happy shalt thou be and It shall be well with tfaee f ; 
happy shalt thou be in this world and It shall be well with 
thee in the world to come/' 4 


That there Is little exaggeration In this sombre picture, 
which is intended as a description of life in the high school, 
we know from the rabbinical schools in Eastern Europe in 
modern times. In these institutions the rules for the 
" way of the study of the Torah " were carried out almost 
literally. The elementary school could hardly conform to 
such a rigorous standard or children would not be chil- 
dren. But it is most probable that in this, as in many 
other respects, it looked up to the superior institution and 
made a brave effort to copy its manners and customs. It 
is at any rate certain that, in so far as the teacher could 
help it, no unnecessary laxity of conduct was permitted. 
How far he was able to enforce his will is a different 
question. To answer this we need to have some idea of 
the general conditions of the school: its organisation, 
curriculum, and methods of teaching. These subjects are 
dealt with fully elsewhere; a few bald lines will suffice 

The school was held in the earlier period in the teacher's 
home; in later times in the Synagogue, or in an adjoining 
room. Of furniture there was none : the pupils sat on the 
ground, "lying in the dust of the teacher's feet," 5 and 
the teacher sat among them. The whole equipment con- 
sisted of wax tablets and pointers, and of scrolls of the Law, 
or special scrolls, which were scarce and very expensive. 
These the children held on their knees, sometimes two or 
three together using one scroll between them. Numbers were 
fairly large anything up to fifty. Only in the fourth century 
do we hear of an effort by an educational reformer to limit 
the number for one teacher to twenty-five, but such reforms 
spread only very slowly. Since there was no idea of the 
technique of class teaching in those times, we hear of no 
attempt at classification. Children from the age of six, or 
even younger, up to probably the age of thirteen, were 
taught in the same school and in the same class. As in 

IX i6g 

the Greek school, the day began early, about sunrise, and 
finished after nightfall. But unlike his Hellenistic con- 
temporary who could lie at nights and dream of the 
freedom of the holidays/ the Jewish boy had practically 
no vacations, except the festivals and, perhaps, some short 
half-holidays. The curriculum consisted mainly of the 
Bible, studied out of an unvocalised text, and of the liturgy s 
for which no books existed at all. The lessons were not 
only recited but chanted, which relieved somewhat the 
strain on the memory. The most interesting part of the 
work probably was the practical training in religious cere- 
monial in which the school co-operated with the home. 
Teaching, as all over the ancient world, was individual, 
the pupils between their turns being left largely to them- 


Discipline in such a place would tax the powers even 
of the most gifted of teachers. It could hardly be main- 
tained without making, in the words of Comenius, "the 
school resound with shrieks and blows." The goldsmith's 
method of " gentle taps " on his precious metal would be 
quite inadequate. It was the strap, plied frequently and 
heavily, by which the teacher could hope to keep up a 
semblance of order, or get any work done. 

In order to avoid any misapprehension, it is necessary 
to point out that the Jewish school of Talinudic times was, 
in its organisation, type of curriculum and methods very 
much like its contemporary Hellenistic schools. The most 
striking difference was the absence in the Jewish school of 
secular subjects: writing, arithmetic, gymnastics, and in- 
strumental music. But this was compensated for by the 
rich variety of ritual and ceremonial practices which never 
fail to make their appeal to the child. But it was not the 
content of education that necessitated severe disciplinary 


methods. It was rather the form of Its organisation, and 
this was the same in its essentials all over the ancient 
civilised world. 

Another, and even more important, cause of the severity 
of discipline was the "spirit of the times." Corporal punish- 
ment was a universally sanctioned form of correction, and 
the school reflected more or less faithfully the manners and 
practices of adult society. We are therefore not surprised 
to find the birch or the strap, as the case might be, the 
supreme arbiter in the affairs of the school, wherever that 
might be situated, in Athens, or Rome, or Alexandria, or 
Jerusalem. More humane views of discipline were voiced 
from time to time by enlightened educationists; but these 
made but little headway down to our own days. 

This rather lengthy discussion is made necessary by the 
fact that, with some notable exceptions, Jewish education 
is treated by historians as if it were an isolated incident, 
completely cut off from the general stream of the history 
of education. This view is largely responsible for the 
stagnant state in which the subject is finding itself at the 
present time. For a proper evaluation of the Jewish school, 
of its aims and ideals, and its methods, it must be studied in 
the wider context of general education of which through- 
out its history it formed part. Through the medium of 
the early Christian school it has played its part in helping 
to shape the development of general educational thought; 
whilst in its own turn it was never completely immune 
from the influence of the ideas and practices in the con- 
temporary non- Jewish school. 

Was there any generally accepted theory of punishment 
among Jewish teachers of those times? As has already 
been suggested, such a theory, assuming that it existed, 
would have been a reflection of current ideas in adult 
society. We have therefore to discover the nature of these 
ideas, and this is by no means an easy matter. 

IN 171 

We are told by writers on the subject that " in Hebrew 
Law the dominant principle was the jus talionis " " as he 
did, so shall it be done to him " and that it was an advance 
when retribution was made proportionate to the crime. 7 
This, however, seems to be too simple to be true. There 
is indeed abundant evidence for this view. **An eye for 
an eye" immediately occurs to the mind. But there are 
not many theories, of religion s ethics, or education, for 
which one could not find evidence in the Bible. And this 
is even more true of the Talmud. An examination of the 
relevant passages will show, perhaps somewhat to our sur- 
prise,, that almost all the principal theories of punishment, 
ancient as well as modem, are represented in biblical 
literature. Often enough these various theories are found 
side by side with a disregard for logical consistency and 
systematic formulation which one must expect in books of 
such a composite nature. Yet it is possible to trace a fairly 
continuous line of development. 

In the earlier writings, such as the Book of the Covenant, 
the dominant principle is that of retributive justice. To 
use again Comenius* words, it is based on " the incontest- 
able proposition that punishment should be employed to- 
wards those who err." But it was an effort to restrain in 
some way primitive vindictiveness, to make the punishment 
proportionate to the crime, 8 The Book of Deuteronomy 
introduces a new principle which can be best expressed in 
modern terminology as "protective*' or "preventive" 
punishment. Again and again it insists that the object of 
punishment is either to "destroy the evil" to protect 
society, or that "others may hear and be afraid/* that is 
to deter would-be criminals. As yet it is the "ends of 
justice " or the interests of the community that are chiefly 
considered. The criminal himself, his motives, the likely 
effect of the punishment upon his future behaviour, are 
largely ignored, until" we come to the prophetic writings, in 


which it is the sinner, rather than the sin, that is the chief 
object of concern. Punishment as a means of reforming 
the evil-doer has become the predominant idea. This is 
brought out with particular force by Ezekiel. One need 
only instance chapter xviii: a striking sermon on the 
subject of the reformative principle of punishment. " Have 
I any pleasure at all in the death of the wicked? and not 
that he should turn from his way and live?" 

But prophecy would be meaningless without the idea of 
repentance or reform. This idea is indeed its very corner- 
stone. And yet even in the later literature the old retri- 
butive principle emerges quite often. This need cause little 
surprise: old ideas living on side by side with the new 
which are supposed to have replaced them is not an un- 
common manifestation in the history of human thought. 

Another theory deserving mention is that punishment 
has in itself a training value for the " testing " or " harden- 
ing" of character. It is already found in Deuteronomy, 
and it apparently forms the main contribution of Elihu to 
the debate between Job and his friends. 10 In adult life 
this can have application only in the sphere of relations 
between God and man. The sinister implications of such 
a theory in the school, where, in the words of Quintilian, 
" a man is allowed so much authority over an age so weak 
and so unable to resist ill-treatment/' need hardly be 
stressed. That such ideas did penetrate the school at one 
time or another is sufficiently clear from the incident of 
Erasmus' teacher which will be given in a later chapter. 


The preceding discussion will enable us to appreciate 
more clearly the ideas on punishment current among 
Jewish teachers of Talmudic and earlier times. Our chief 
authorities for the earlier period, Proverbs and Ben-Sira, 


date from a time when the more advanced views on the 
object of punishment had already found a fairly wide 
acceptance. The idea of " revenge " or " retribution " is 
almost entirely absent from them when they are concerned 
with children. Punishment is directed not to the past, but 
to the present and the future. Its object is not the expiation 
of sins, but the eradication of evil habits, the moral and 
intellectual reformation of the offender. That the rod can 
accomplish all this they had no manner of doubt. 

In Talmudic times the attitude to the child underwent a 
radical change, but the ideas on punishment current in the 
later biblical period continued to hold sway in the school. 
The rod of the Bible, it is true, has disappeared; we hear 
instead only of the strap perhaps as a result of Hellenistic 
influence. But whether this meant a change for the better 
from the child's point of view it is not easy to say. In the 
Roman school there were several instruments for the 
infliction of punishment, graded according to the gravity 
of the offence. In the Hellenistic school, we learn from 
the third mime of Herondas, there was more than one kind 
of strap. The truant boy begs the teacher not to use the 
stinging oxtail, but "the other one." 11 There is some 
reason to think that the Jewish teacher also had more than 
one arrow in his quiver. There was a heavy strap, used for 
inflicting stripes upon adults, of which the Talmud gives 
us a detailed description. 12 It is not unlikely that it was 
used also in the school. But Rav, a famous scholar of the 
third century C.E. and an educational reformer, advised an 
elementary schoolmaster of his time to employ only a shoe- 
strap for flogging children. 13 To say on the strength of 
this, as some writers do, that the Jewish teacher used 
nothing heavier than a shoe-strap is confusing a pious wish 
with historic fact. 14 Teachers disregarded Rav's advice in 
the same way as he himself ignored the advice of Proverbs 
and Ben-Sira. 


The manner of flogging may be inferred from indirect 
Talmudic references. The culprit was not, as in the 
Hellenistic and other schools, hoisted on the back of some 
other pupil or assistant, but " bent over a post " and beaten 
on the back between the shoulders. 15 

Floggings, as might be expected, were frequent. We 
even read of pupils who were flogged every day and who 
showed signs of fear at the mere sight of the strap, even 
before they knew for whom it was intended a kind of 
" conditioned reflex." 16 We are also told something of the 
children's reactions to punishment. Four types are dis- 
tinguished : one who is flogged and remains silent; another 
who "kicks"; a third who begs for mercy; and a fourth 
who "asks for more." 17 

Pupils were punished for all sorts of offences. One of 
these was "talking" much the same as in modern schools. 
"Children's talk," we read in an early text, "puts a man 
out of the world "that is, if he encourages it. 

What an interpretation a pious Jew could put on this 
passage we may see from the will of a saintly scholar of 
the eighteenth century. " My beloved son, I bear witness 
to myself that though I had many children I never kissed 
any of them, or took any of them in my arms; nor did I 
indulge with them in idle talk. The warning of the rabbis 
to beware of children's talk was constantly in my mind. 
But, alas 1 We see now with our own eyes that the father 
himself accustoms his children to idle talk." 18 

But it should be borne in mind that teaching was in- 
dividual and the pupils had plenty of time on their hands 
between their turns. Talking and noise were inevitable in 
the circumstances. Martial tells us what an annoyance a 
Roman elementary school could be to people in the neigh- 
bourhood. 19 A Jew of Talmudic times could not speak of 
a school in the contemptuous terms of the Roman writer; 
but we know from legal discussions that neighbours ob- 


jected to schoolmasters settling in the vicinity, no doubt on 
account of the noise, and that these objections were some- 
times sustained by the law. 20 

The children naturally were not always satisfied with 
talking alone. We read, for instance, of Hiyya, the son of 
Rav, mentioned before, who was fighting in school with 
another boy, and the latter was apparently getting the best 
of it, Hiyya, in the manner of many children in all ages, 
"told the teacher." 21 

That flogging was administered in cases of intellectual 
inability or dullness goes without saying. The Book of 
Proverbs had already advocated the use of the birch as a 
stimulus to intellectual effort. There are rabbis who speak 
boastingly of the " goodly blows " they had received from 
their teachers before they managed to grasp a certain sub- 
ject. 22 This was not In any way a peculiarity of the Jewish 
school. We hear the same tale everywhere : from Augus- 
tine, who speaks bitterly of the floggings he received for 
being slow to learn; 23 from Heine, who tells us that he 
learned to distinguish between the Latin regular and 
irregular verbs by the greater number of blows he received 
for the latter; down to the Yorkshire schoolmaster, who Is 
said to have caned a whole class for spelling "pigeon" 
without a " d." 

The pupil was expected to perform certain little offices 
for his teacher, sometimes of a domestic nature & thing 
which children are seldom loth to do. A rabbi of the third 
century C.E. goes as far as saying that " all the services 
which a slave performs for his master, a pupil must also 
do for his teacher "which, of course, must not be taken 
HteraUy. Elsewhere we read that "to deny a pupil the 
opportunity to perform services for his teacher is equal to 
denying him kindness/' or "to removing from him the 
fear of Heaven/' 24 The following incident shows that this 
was extended also to the elementary school 


The boy Samuel, who In later life became famous as a 
scholar, doctor, and astronomer, was crying when he was 
found by his father. The following conversation then 
took place between them. 

"Why are you crying?" 

"Because iny teacher beat me." 

"But why?" 

" Because he said to me : * You were feeding my son, but 
you did not carry out the religious observance of washing 
your hands before doing so." 

"And why did you not wash your hands?" 

" It was his son who ate, so why should I wash? 

The father concluded the conversation by saying : " It 
is not sufficient that he your teacher is ignorant of the 
Law, but he must also beat youl" 

What the consequences were for the teacher we are not 
told. 25 It is an obvious inference from this story that 
laxity in religious observance, real or imaginary, was dealt 
with with a heavy hand. 

How severe chastisement could be we may see from an 
incident, dating from the fifth century CJE., of which we 
have three separate reports in the Talmud, There was an 
elementary schoolmaster who "transgressed" against his 
pupils and was therefore removed from his post. The 
"transgression," according to the greatest Talmudic com- 
mentator, consisted in the fact that " he beat the children 
until they died." But it is the sequel that is significant: 
the teacher was restored to his position, because no one so 
"thorough" could be found! 26 

In one respect at least the Jewish schoolboy had an 
advantage over his fellows in non-Jewish schools. During 
a certain period of the year flogging was not permitted. 
It is recorded that a great Palestinian scholar of the third 
century C.E., who was the spiritual leader of his time, 
ordered the teachers not to use the strap during the three 


weeks which separate the fasts commemorating the fall of 
Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. It was 
apparently feared that In such an unlucky time flogging 
might end in a serious accident. And so the saddest season 
of the year was turned for the schoolboy Into a holiday 
from the strap. 27 

Rewards, presumably for good progress, have been re- 
ferred to before. The following story Is interesting in this 
connection. "Rav came to a certain place where he pro- 
claimed a fast because of the absence of rain, but no rain 
fell Then a certain man came forth and began to lead in 
the public prayer. As soon as he uttered the first sen- 
tence, "Thou causest the wind to blow/ the wind began 
to blow. When he said, 'And the rain to fall/ the rain 
came down. To Rav's question as to what was his profes- 
sion, he answered : * I am an elementary schoolmaster, and 
I teach the children of the poor as well as the children of 
the rich; and from him who cannot afford it, I take 
nothing. I also have a fish pond, and the boy who is 
unwilling to learn, I bribe with these and coax him until 
he comes and learns/ " 2 * 





I. Introductory. Bertholet on trades and callings amongst the 
ancient Hebrews. Criticism. The Bible on the skilled crafts- 
man; and on the toiler in general. The equation of "know- 
ledge " with " virtue " was unknown to the Bible. 1 1. The 
conception of " pure " knowledge as an ideal could only arise 
in a society like that of Greece. Illustrations from Plutarch 
and others. The separation between a liberal and a profes- 
sional education. III. Ben-Sira on "knowing and doing." 
A Hebrew variation on a popular Greek theme. Suggested 
sources of Ben-Sira *s inspiration. IV. A strong reaction 
against Ben-Sira *s views in later times. Jewish scholars usually 
followed some trade. The story of Rabbi Joshua. 

THE great educational discovery of the nineteenth century, 
according to Dr. Ballard, was the human hand. The re- 
action against mere book learning in the school which set 
in towards the end of the past century has grown steadily 
stronger and has received an added impetus from the 
changed outlook on cultural values in the post-war period. 
But whilst the training value of the arts and crafts is a 
modern discovery, the underlying wider problems of labour 
and leisure, or of the supposed antithesis between a " liberal " 
and a "professional" education, exercised the minds of 
educationists since the days of ancient Greece* These 
problems were first clearly formulated in classical Athens, 
but they also claimed the active attention of the Jewish 
teacher in the period with which we are concerned. 

The Jewish attitude to manual work and to the teaching 
of arts and crafts will be discussed in the following two 
chapters. By way of anticipation we may say that the ideas 



of the Talmudic teachers on the subject under discussion 
will be shown to approach much nearer to modern views 
than might be expected. In later times, as a result of 
adverse external conditions, a sharp change took place in 
the Jewish outlook on religious and cultural values, and 
manual work came to be regarded in a negative manner 
reminiscent of the attitude of classical Greece. In modern 
Jewish education, especially under the influence of the cul- 
tural revival in Palestine, a strong tendency to return to 
the older, more original Jewish views on manual work has 
become the outstanding feature. This, however, is beyond 
the province of our present enquiry. 

The following quotation from Bertholet's "History of 
Hebrew Civilisation" may serve as a fitting introduction 
to our subject. This is how he begins his description of 
trades and callings among the ancient Hebrews : " We must 
lay aside our modern conceptions of trades and callings 
when we try to understand what these meant to the ancient 
Hebrews. It is significant that the story of Paradise was 
written under the impression that the divine curse rested 
on all human toil. Man toils *in the sweat of his brow/ 
and the ground brings forth thorns! In spite of all the 
passages lauding the excellence of the land, the fact that its 
stony ground yielded a harvest only in return for great 
toil schooled the Hebrew to take the view that all work 
means toil, and he would not have been an Oriental had he 
not done his best to keep all toil as far away from him as 
possible." 1 

It is not easy to see what this curious homily is based on 
unless it be the word "cursed" in the Paradise story, 
where, Incidentally, it is applied not to work but to the 
ground. Nor does the writer himself take the trouble to 
justify his view. On the contrary, the rest of the chapter 
seems to be devoted to a repudiation of the principal idea 
of the introduction. 


The same biblical text also evoked a homily from a rabbi 
of the third century, and it is rather interesting to compare 
the two. " When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to 
Adam : ' Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth for thee/ 
his eyes began to flow with tears. * O master of the world/ 
said he, * shall I and my ass eat out of the same crib?* But 
when he was further told, ' In the sweat of thy brow shall 
thou eat bread/ Ms mind was appeased/' 2 

Here, it will be observed, there is no suspicion of any 
"curse" attaching to labouring "in the sweat of the 
brow " as long as it produces food fit for human consump- 
tion. And there can be no doubt that this is the truer 
representation of the outlook of the ancient Hebrew. For 
no one without preconceived notions can carry away from 
the Bible and this is equally true of the Hebrew Bible as 
of the New Testament the impression that toil is some- 
thing "to be kept away as far as possible/' or even that it 
is in any way undignified or incompatible with any station 
in life however high. To till the ground was man's natural 
calling. " For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon 
the earth, and there was no man to till the ground " runs 
the simple tale of the creation of man. The great national 
heroes, men like Abraham, Moses, Saul, or David, were 
peasants and shepherds. But there is never a suggestion 
that there was anything out of the ordinary in that. In 
the same natural manner is the name of "Shepherd" 
applied to God. 3 

As to skilled craftsmen, they are invariably spoken of 
with respect. The following characteristic passage shows 
it sufficiently dearly. "And the Lord spoke unto Moses, 
saying, See I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, 
the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him 
with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, 
and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning 
works, to work in gold and in silver and in brass, and in 


cutting of stones to set them, and of carving of timber, to 
work in all manner of workmanship , . . and in the hearts 
of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom that they 
may make all that I have commanded thee." 

This is typical of the Bible as a whole. The skilled 
worker is wise-hearted; he is possessed of wisdom and 
understanding; he is filled with the spirit of God. 4 

While this almost reverential attitude is reserved for the 
" cunning " craftsman, the toiler in general also occasion- 
ally comes in for a word of praise. Sometimes we hear of 
the healthy contempt of the hard-working farmer for the 
idler, 5 or of the suspicion with which the simple peasant 
regards the crafty merchant. 6 But as a rule the Bible is 
neither eulogistic nor deprecatory of work. It simply takes 
it for granted that man has to labour in order to sustain 
life. It is not aware of an antithesis between a " rational " 
and a " menial " occupation; still less of such problems as 
" labour and leisure," or " knowing and doing." The equa- 
tion of " virtue " with " knowledge," or of the highest good 
with philosophic contemplation, was unknown to it. 
" Virtue," even in later times, when it was already identi- 
fied with "wisdom," consisted mainly in dealing justly 
with one's fellow-men in the ordinary run of practical life, 
and in discharging one's duties towards God in a super- 
ficially correct or, as the prophets demanded, in a more 
inward manner. 7 


The conception of " pure " or contemplative knowledge 
as an ideal, or as a means of achieving perfect happiness 
or perfect virtue, was utterly strange to the Jews of biblical 
times. The antithesis between a worthy life that is, a 
life of reason and contemplation and the " mere living " 
of those who have to spend their energies in labour of all 
kinds, could have no meaning in the social and economic 


conditions of ancient Judea. It could only arise in a society 
in which the social-economic structure was based on a 
division of the people into those who had to labour for a 
living and those who were relieved from this necessity. 

Such conditions existed in Greece, where a comparatively 
small number of citizens subsisted on the labour of a great 
mass of working slaves, who rendered all types of menial 
and even intellectual services. 8 The few at the top could 
devote themselves to their own physical and intellectual 
improvement, and it was inevitable that " leisure " should 
become an ideal whilst all manner of labour should be re- 
garded as servile. 

" One of the greatest privileges that Lycurgus procured 
his countrymen/' Plutarch tells us, " was the enjoyment of 
leisure, the consequence of his forbidding them to exercise 
any mechanic trade. It was not worth their while to take 
great pains to raise a fortune, since riches were of no 
account, and the helots who tilled the ground were 
answerable for the procedure. ... To this purpose we have 
a story of a Lacedaemonian, who, happening to be at 
Athens while the court sat, was informed of a man who 
was fined for idleness, and when the poor fellow was re- 
turning home in great dejection, attended by his con- 
doling friends, he desired die company to show him the 
person that was condemned for keeping up his dignity. 
So much beneath them they reckoned all attention to 
mechanic arts and all desires of riches!" 9 

That is true also of other parts of Greece, with the ex- 
ception of Athens, where public opinion was more favour- 
able to labour. "The Hellenes as a nation regarded all 
forms of handicraft as bourgeois and contemptible. . . . 
To do anything in order to extract money from someone 
else was, in their opinion, vulgar and ungentlemanly. . . " 
The cheapness and abundance of serf or slave labour made 
it possible for a large proportion of the free population to 


live in idleness and devote their time to the development 
of the body by physical exercises, of the mind by per- 
petual discussions, and of the imagination by art and 
music. 10 

The cities in which the nobility was in power, we are told 
by another writer, had nothing but disdain for the labour- 
ing classes, and often the name of citizen was considered 
incompatible with the exercise of any trade whatever. In 
some places shopkeepers were admitted to the magistracy 
only ten years after retiring from business; in others even 
fanning was a disgrace. In one city the infamy attaching 
to all trades was such that they had to be put into an 
administrative service entrusted to public slaves. And the 
philosophers and thinkers, with the exception of Socrates, 
were led to defend these prejudices. Changed conditions 
in the later Hellenistic period rendered these views un- 
tenable in their extremer form, but the upper classes con- 
tinued to feel for labour some of the contempt bestowed 
on it in earlier times. 11 

In such circumstances arose the separation between a 
" liberal " and a professional education, a distinction which, 
formulated by the Greeks more than two thousand years 
ago, has continued to influence educational thought down 
to the present day. For in modern times also, no less than 
in Greece of old, although in a different form, the sharp 
social and economic differentiation between the leisured 
and the labouring classes tended to encourage and keep 
alive that distinction. This aspect of the educational legacy 
of Greece is not always fully appreciated. 12 


Jewish thought in biblical times knew nothing of this 
distinction. It is necessary to bear this clearly in mind in 
order that we may see in their true light the developments 


tliat took place In this connection in the Greek and Roman 

The first time we hear of a change in the Jewish view 
on manual work is in the Book of Ben-Sira. And it comes 
with a suddenness and abruptness for which the reader of 
older Jewish literature is entirely unprepared. We get the 
impression that something akin to a spiritual revolution 
had taken place during the immediately preceding times 
of which we otherwise know so little. 

This is what Ben-Sira has to tell us on the problem of 
" knowing and doing." 

* * The wisdom of the scribe cometh by opportunity of leisure. 
He that hath little business can become wise. 
How can he become wise that holdeth the goad, 
And glorieth In brandishing the lance? 
Who leadeth cattle and turnetn about oxen. 
And whose discourse is with bullocks? 

Likewise the maker of carving and cunning device 

Who by night and by day hath no rest. 


So also is the smith that sitteth by the furnace 

And regardeth the weighty vessels. 

The flame of the ire cracketh his flesh 

And with the heat of the furnace he gloweth. 


Likewise the potter who sitteth at his wheel 
And driveth the vessel with the soles of his feet. 

His arms are cracked by the clay, 

And before old age he is bent and bowed. 

* * * * * 

All these are deft with their hands, 

And each is wise in his handiwork. 

Without them a city cannot be inhabited 

And wherever they dwell they hunger not. 

But they shall not be enquired of for public counsel, 

And in the assembly they have no precedence. 


On the seat of the judge they do not sit, 
And law and justice they understand not. 
Not so he that applieth himself to the fear of God 
And to set his mind upon the Law of the Most High, 
Who searcheth out the wisdom of all the ancients, 
And is occupied with the prophets of old, 
Who heedeth the discourses of men of renown 
And entereth into the deep things of parables; 
Searcheth out the hidden meanings of proverbs 
And is conversant with the dark sayings of parables ; 
Who serveth among great men 
And appeareth before princes. 


Who is careful to seek unto his Maker 
And before the Most High entreat mercy 

* * * * * 

He himself directeth counsel and knowledge, 
And setteth his mind on their secrets. 

His understanding many do praise, 
And never shall his name be blotted out." 13 

This is much more than a description of the "ideal 
scribe," as some take it to be. It is a philosophy of life and 
therefore also a philosophy of education, and is of con- 
siderable importance for the understanding of the develop- 
ment of Jewish educational thought. The author gives us 
his religious, sociological and political views. The ideal of 
a worthy life is freedom from all physical occupations; 
leisure to be devoted to the study of the Law and the 
Prophets; to the searching out of the meaning of the 
proverbs and parables; to prayer. Only men who lead such 
lives can have wisdom and understanding, and are fit to 
give counsel, to serve among the great and to " appear be- 
fore princes " that is, to be the rulers of the " city " or 
the state. 

On the other side there are the peasant, the smith, the 
potter all those who have to labour for a livelihood. They 
are indeed " wise " in their own work. Also, they are in- 


dispensable to the existence of the state. But they possess 
neither physical beauty nor spiritual perfection and are 
therefore " not fit to govern." 

In other words, they are means, necessary means, 
for the existence of others; they are not ends in themselves. 

It is abundantly evident that this philosophy cannot be 
regarded as a natural development of the older Jewish out- 
look on life; it bears clearly the stamp of a foreign importa- 
tion despite the Hebrew phraseology with which the author 
could not help clothing it. When we bear in mind that 
he wrote at a time " when Hellenistic influence was at its 
highest in Judea," and that he was apparently a well- 
travelled man with personal experience of social and 
political life in Hellenistic lands, it is not hard to find the 
origin of Ms ideas. 14 The passage can indeed be best 
described as a Hebrew variation on a popular Greek theme. 
The conception of wisdom is essentially Jewish : the Law 
and the Prophets; proverbs and parables; the wisdom of 
the ancients. Again, Ben-Sira, as a Jew, could not fail to 
emphasise the value of prayer. But the contempt for 
mechanical trades; the denial to the artisan of the right to 
take part in the government of the state; the stress laid on 
the physical deformities caused by manual work these are 
all purely Greek ideas. One might almost point to the 
following as the source of his inspiration : 

"... It is evident that what is necessary ought to be 
taught to all; but that which is necessary for one is not 
necessary for all; for there ought to be a distinction be- 
tween the employment of a freeman and a slave. The first 
of these should be taught everything useful which will not 
make those who know it mean. Everything is to be 
esteemed mean, and every art and every discipline which 
renders the body, the mind, or the understanding of free- 
men unfit for the habit and practice of virtue; for which 
reason all those arts which tend to deform the body are 


called mean, and all those employments which are exer- 
cised for gain; for they take off from the freedom of the 
mind and render it sordid. There are also some liberal 
arts which are not improper for freemen to apply to in a 
certain degree; but to endeavour to acquire a perfect skill 
in them is exposed to the faults I have just mentioned." 15 
The artisan, according to Aristotle, is inferior even to the 
slave. He can only attain excellence in proportion as he 
becomes a slave. And even the fine arts, such as music, 
painting, or sculpture, in so far as their practice is con- 
cerned, are in the same class as the " menial " occupations. 
The denial of the artisan's fitness to participate in the 
national government follows naturally from such views, 
and " the best civic community," Aristotle further teaches 
us, " will never admit an artisan to the franchise/' 


Such ideas could never strike deep roots in the Jewish 
communities, where the social and economic conditions 
were totally different from those obtaining in Greece. Dur- 
ing the pre-Maccabean period, when Hellenistic culture 
threatened to engulf Judea along with the rest of the old 
world, it is not unlikely that Greek views on labour pene- 
trated into some circles especially among the upper 
classes. But the reaction later on was strong and wide- 
spread. " Love work and hate lordship/' a leadiiig scholar, 
a hundred and fifty years after Ben-Sira, teaches us. And 
he is typical of the whole succession of rabbis down to the 
end of the Talmudic period. The biblical heroes, Abra- 
ham, Moses, David, have their counterparts in Hillel the 
wood-cutter, Eliezer the farmer, Joshua ben Hananiah the 
needle-maker, Akiba ben Joseph the shepherd, Johanan the 
shoe-maker, and innumerable others. 16 

It should be borne in mind that a teacher of the " Oral 


Law " was forbidden to charge a fee, and even those called 
upon to administer justice were only allowed to receive 
a compensation for die actual time taken off from their 
ordinary work. In such circumstances scholars, with the 
exception of a small minority who enjoyed independent 
means, were obliged to follow some occupation. This was 
very often agriculture, especially in Babylonia; but other 
trades were also favoured. And it seldom occurred to any- 
one that this could be a disqualification from leadership 
of the highest rank. 

The following may be taken as typical of the general 
position. Gamaliel, a great-grandson of Hillel, and the 
spiritual head of the community towards the end of the 
first century C.E., was removed from his position by the 
members of the Academy after a sharp controversy in the 
course of which the popular scholar Rabbi Joshua ben 
Hananiah was treated by him rather harshly. After some 
time Gamaliel decided to go and ask Joshua's forgiveness. 
When he reached the house he saw that the walls were 
black with soot. So he said: "From the walls of your 
house one can recognise that you are a needle-maker."* To 
which Joshua replied: "Alas for the generation whose 
leader you are, and alas for the boat of which you are the 
captain 1 You do not know of the suffering of the 
scholars; how they maintain themselves; how they earn 
their livelihood." Gamaliel then said: "I humble myself 
before you; forgive me." But Joshua would not relent. 
The former again said : " Do it for the sake of my father's 
house." This appeal produced the desired effect. And it 
was the same scholar and manual worker, Joshua, who was 
sent on important missions to the Roman Emperor, 

* Or charcoal burner, 



I. Talmudic eulogies of labour. The difference between the 
legal and the homiletical types of literature. Illustrations from 
the Talmud. II. Discords in the chorus of praise. Reasons 
for these. Further illustrations from rabbinical literature. Some 
Hellenistic influence. III. Hereditary trades. The learning 
of a trade was an essential part of a boy's education. Not all 
trades were equally favoured. Agriculture and commerce. 

AND yet here, as in other respects, Hellenistic influence 
had not been completely eradicated. For while the Bible 
is not even aware of such a problem as the social or political 
status of the artisan, the Talmud grows more and more 
eulogistic of the value of labour, and one finds it difficult 
to avoid the impression that this excessive emphasis was 
intended to counteract some powerful influence from the 

As might be expected there is in this respect a difference 
between the legal and the homiletical types of rabbinical 
literature. In the former we meet with the more natural 
attitude with which we are familiar from the Bible. It is, 
however, the latter that often affords a clearer insight into 
the people's mentality. Thus we read in an early law: 
" One may negotiate on a Sabbath for his boy to be taught 
the book (literacy) and to be taught a trade." Again, " The 
father is obliged with regard to his son to circumcise him, 
and to redeem him thirty days after birth and to teach 
him the Torah, and to arrange for his marriage, and to 
teach him a trade. . . . Rabbi Judah says, He who does 



not teach his son a trade accustoms him to robbery/' 1 One 
cannot fail to note here that the learning of a trade is 
treated in the same manner as the study of the Torah : the 
one is apparently no more important than the other. The 
fact that trade is mentioned after the Torah probably shows 
us the chronological order in which these subjects were 

From another early source we get an idea of the social 
position of the common labourer. 

Once Rabbi Johanan, the son of Mathia, told his son to 
go and hire some labourers. So he hired the labourers and 
arranged to provide them also with food. Whereupon his 
father told him : " My son, even if you provide for them 
meals like those of King Solomon's in his rime, you will 
not have done your duty by them, for they are the de- 
scendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." 2 In the opinion 
of a famous authority of the third century, a labourer is 
entitled to renounce his agreement even in the middle of 
the day something like the legalisation of "lightning 
strikes." He bases himself on the Bible, which says that 
the children of Israel are "slaves to the Lord," but not 
slaves to other slaves. The rabbis were even prepared to 
forego in favour of the craftsman some of the respect which 
they claimed from the rest of the community, and so did 
not require him, when engaged in his work, to rise before 
a scholar. 3 

Only a few typical extracts can be given here of the 
very extensive homiletical literature. 

"The scholars of Jabneh were wont to say, *I am a 
created being and so is my fellow-man who is not a 
student a created being. My work is in town (study); his 
work is in the field. I rise early for my work; so does he 
for his. He cannot distinguish himself in my work, just 
as I cannot in his. It might be said that I do much study 
of the Torah and he does but little. But we have learned 


that there Is no difference whether one studies much or 
little as long as one's heart is directed towards heaven/ " 4 

The apologetic tone for lahour is unmistakable here. It 
is even more clearly brought out In some of the following : 
"Love work. How should one love it? It teaches us that 
one must love work and that he must not hate it. For 
just as the Torah was given by a covenant, so was work 
given by a covenant; as it is said, ' Six days shalt thou 
labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day shall be a 
Sabbath to the Lord thy God/ " 

" Adam did not taste any food until he had done some 
work, as it is said, ' And He put him in the Garden of Eden 
to dress it and keep it/ and only after that is it said, " Of 
every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat." 

" Nor did the Holy One, blessed be He, cause His divine 
presence to rest on Israel until they had done some work, 
as It is said, ' And let them make Me a sanctuary that I 
may dwell among them/ " 

" He who lives by his labour is superior to a God-fearing 
man; for concerning a God-fearing man it is said, * Happy 
is the man who fears the Lord/ whereas concerning him 
who lives by his labour it is said, ' If thou eat the labour of 
thine hands, happy shalt thou be and it shall be well with 
thee ' : happy shalt thou be in this world and it shall be 
well with thee in the world to come." 

"One must not say, 'I shall eat and drink and enjoy 
myself and take no trouble, and heaven will have mercy/ 
It is said, * And Thou didst bless the work of his hands ' : 
a man must toil and work with his two hands : then God 
will send him His blessing." 

" An excellent thing is the study of the Torah combined 
with some worldly occupation, for the labour demanded by 
them both makes sin to be forgotten. All study of the 
Torah without work must in the end be futile and lead to 


The last part of this statement, with one or two verbal 
changes, would win the hearty approval of many a modern 

The following may be taken as popular sayings, although 
not all of them are anonymous. 

" Great Is work, for It honours him who performs it." 

" Idleness leads to Immorality." 

" Idleness leads to Insanity/' 

"Seven years the famine lasted; It never reached the 
craftsman's door." 

" Skin a dead animal in the market-place and get paid 
for it; and do not say, ' I am a great man and it Is below 
my dignity/" 5 


This chorus of praise was not, however, without its dis- 
cords. Now and again another strain makes itself heard, 
affording us a glimpse into a different current of thought 
which the majority strove to counteract. Among those 
who differed from the general view we find some teachers 
of very high standing in rabbinical literature. It would, 
however, be a mistake to consider that they derived their 
inspiration entirely from Hellenistic philosophy, although 
some of their phraseology is no doubt borrowed from that 
source. Their object was not the depreciation of labour but 
rather the glorification of study that is, the study of the 
Torah. They all belong to the period following the defeat 
of Bar-Kochba, and their views must be related to the 
social and political conditions which arose as a result of 
that critical event. As has been repeatedly emphasised 
previously, the disastrous failure of the rebellion under 
Bar-Kochba formed a turning-point in the history of 
Jewish educational thought as In that of Judaism in 
general. Education was the only form of social activity 
left to a people deprived of its political institutions; it 


seemed to offer the only means of saving Judaism, from 
extinction. There is no wonder that in these conditions it 
was represented as the "highest good" to which a man 
should devote himself to the exclusion of every other in- 
terest. We have a parallel to that in modern times the 
great enthusiasm for education in Prussia after its humili- 
ating defeats at the hands of Napoleon. In his " Addresses 
to the German Nation " Fichte appealed to the leaders to 
turn to education as a means of national redemption. He 
set all his hopes for Germany on a new national system of 
education, and, we are told, " never before have the souls 
of men heen so deeply stirred by the idea of raising the 
whole existence of mankind to a higher level." 6 The posi- 
tion of Palestine after 135 C.E. was not unlike that of 
Prussia of 1806. Politically it was even worse, the Jewish 
people having apparently lost all hopes of national in- 
dependence. Many of the strangely exaggerated pane- 
gyrics on the value of the Torah assume a different mean- 
ing when placed against this social and political back- 
ground. The sixth chapter of the " Ethics of the Fathers " 
may be mentioned as an outstanding example of this type 
of literature, although it belongs to a much later period. 7 

The following is concerned more directly with the ques- 
tion of labour versus' study. 

"Our sages taught: 'And thou shalt gather in thy 
corn' what need is there for the Bible to say that? Be- 
cause it is written elsewhere, * This book of the Law shall 
not depart from thy mouth ' maybe this would be taken 
literally. Therefore is it written, ' And thou shalt gather 
in thy corn': attend to these things in the usual way. 
These are the words of Rabbi Ishmael. But Rabbi Simon 
ben Yohai says, "If a man should plough in ploughing 
time, and sow in seed-time, and reap in harvest-time what 
would become of the Torah? Nay, but when Israel are 
doing the will of the Omnipresent, their work will be done 


for them by others, as it Is said, * And strangers shall stand 
and feed your flocks/ But when Israel are not doing the 
will of the Omnipresent, their work must "be done by them- 
selves; and not only that, but they have to do the work of 
other people, too, as it is said, ' And thou shalt serve thine 
enemies.' " A rabbi of the fourth century comments on 
this : " Many have followed the teaching of Rabbi Ishmael 
and succeeded; others followed the teaching of Rabbi 
Simon and did not succeed." 

That the latter's views did not find any wide acceptance 
in his own time may be seen from the remark of a col- 
league of his : " Come and see the difference between the 
former and the latter generations. The former generations 
made their study regular and their work casual and they 
succeeded in both; the latter generations made their work 
regular and their study casual and succeeded in neither." 8 
Rabbi Simon, it may be added, was a fugitive from the 
fierce Roman persecution which followed the defeat of 
Bar-Kochba, and, according to tradition, remained in 
hiding for thirteen years, devoting himself during all this 
time to the study of the Torah. 

A scholar of the same period declares that he is going 
to leave aside all the trades in the world and teach his son 
only the Torah. Another contemporary of Rabbi Simon's, 
a copyist by profession, would not go as far as that, his 
view being that " a man should always teach Ms son a fine 
and light trade/' 9 The distinction between a "fine" and 
a " menial " occupation is, of course, a well-known Greek 
idea. It is characteristic that among Jews in the later 
Talmudic period tailoring was considered a " fine " trade. 
A rather extreme view of manual work as an undignified 
occupation is expressed by a famous rabbi of the third 
century C.E. : " As soon as a man has been appointed a 
leader of the community he is forbidden to do work in the 
presence of three people." 10 As is evident from the con- 


text this was applied only to " menial " work. The author 
of the statement was an astronomer as well as a doctor. 
He did not apparently consider this latter craft " mean/' 
although in the Talmud the doctor is counted amongst 
other tradesmen. 11 


As in the Hellenistic world in general, hereditary trans- 
mission of trades was also the usual practice among Jews. 
Already in the Bible we find families of scribes or workers 
in linen. During second temple times we read of priestly 
families that specialised in certain services in connection 
with the temple ceremonial and would not disclose the 
secrets of their arts to others. One of these excelled in 
writing, others were bakers or incense-makers. In order 
to exert pressure on these families, who evidently had a 
monopoly of their trades, skilled craftsmen were brought 
from Alexandria probably from the Jewish artisans' 
guilds of which we read elsewhere. Specialisation was 
apparently carried as far among Jews as in the rest of the 
Hellenistic world. 12 

In the third century C.E. we find a well-known scholar 
endeavouring to prove from a biblical text that one must 
not depart from one's ancestors' trade from which we 
may gather that the practice of the hereditary succession 
of trades was already beginning to weaken. It was never 
rigidly adhered to, for apprenticeship was a well-estab- 
lished institution in Talmudic times. From the earlier 
period we have a record of a discussion whether a father 
may make arrangements on a Sabbath for the appren- 
ticing of his son to a tradesman, and the " joiner's appren- 
tice" was quite a common figure in later times. It was 
even apparently not uncommon for Jews to send their 
sons to non-Jewish artisans to learn their trades. A pro- 
hibition was necessary to prevent children from being 


apprenticed to Idolaters, but not all non-Jews were included 
among these. 13 

The learning of a trade was an essential part of a boy's 
education and was regarded as of equal importance with 
the study of the Torah, although the latter was quite 
naturally given first attention. In a well-known text we 
get what may be considered a complete manual, in order 
of time, of the bringing up of a boy until he reached his 
manhood: circumcision; study of Torah; marriage; the 
learning of a trade. 14 

Naturally not all trades were equally favoured. Some 
kinds of labour, such as grinding of meal, cutting of wood, 
and drawing of water were already in Bible times re- 
garded as degrading and fit only for slaves. So also was 
the small trader or hawker held in low esteem among Jews 
as amongst Greeks. 15 Commerce in general was apparently 
held in suspicion on moral grounds. Ben-Sira tells us that 
"a merchant shall hardly keep himself from wrong- 
doing/' and in the Talmud we find an opinion that a man 
is forbidden to make his son a shopkeeper, " whose trade is 
a trade of robbers." The material advantages of commerce 
could not, however, be overlooked. 16 

There were other trades, besides that of the shopkeeper, 
which were thought to lead to laxity of morals. These 
were either the trades which involved frequent dealings 
with women, or those whose followers were held to be 
rather unscrupulous about other people's property, such 
as the ass-driver or the shepherd. 17 Some occupations, 
such as tanning and copper-mining or smelting, were re- 
garded with so much contempt that their followers were 
ostracised and could be forced to divorce their wives. 
They were also exempted from the pilgrimage to the 
temple, apparently because no one would keep them com- 
pany on account of their ill-smelling work. These and 
some others, we are told, may never be made kings or 


high priests. But this, of course, reflects the conditions of 
a time when these high offices became a mere memory. In 
later times, however, they were apparently excluded from 
communal offices. It should be mentioned that the doctor, 
who is coupled with the butcher, is made the object of 
a particularly severe condemnation by the rabbis: "The 
best of doctors is doomed to hell; and the most honest 
butcher is Amalek's partner." 18 

On the other hand, agriculture, as might be expected, 
was the most widespread as well as the most respected 
occupation. One rabbi tells us that " a man who owns no 
land is not a man at all," because it is written, "The 
heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He hath 
given to the children of men," this in spite of the fact that 
agriculture had few material benefits to offer in comparison 
with commerce, and that, in the language of a scholar of 
the third century, a man must become a slave to the 
ground if he is to get a living from it. 19 

It is difficult to imagine how anyone would apprentice 
his son to one of the despised trades. Their continuance 
can only be explained by the fact that callings were in 
those times so often hereditary. 

"No trade will ever die out," Judah I, the compiler of 
the Mishnah, teaches us. "Happy is he who sees his 
parents engaged in a superior occupation: alas for him 
who sees his parents engaged in an inferior occupation! 
The world cannot go on without the perfume-maker, nor 
without the tanner; happy is he whose profession is that 
of the perfume-maker; alas for him whose profession is 
that of the tanner! " 

This expresses the practical point of view. A deeper 
psychological note is struck by Rav, the famous disciple 
of Judah I, who tells us that " the Holy One, blessed be 
He, has made every profession attractive to him who has 
to foUow it/' 20 




I. The position of the child in Bible times. Parental love. 
The child as a gift from God. Children *s names. Preference 
for the son. The daughter was not an unwelcome member of 
the family. II. ** Exposing " was not common among Jews. 
Child sacrifice. Other forms of infanticide. The danger to 
childhood from tribal warfare. III. In the earlier times the 
child was the property of his father. Illustrations from the 
Bible. The family as the social unit. The prophets and the 
idea of individual moral responsibility. Job and Ecclesiastes. 
The conception of the free personality in post-temple times. 
Infanticide was destroyed largely through the spread of the 
Jewish view on the sanctity of life. IV. The fundamental 
difference between the Jews and the Greeks in their social ideals 
and in their attitude to the child. To the Greek thinker the 
man was lost in the citizen. Among the Jews individuality was 
never lost sight of. Talmudic teachers on the relation of the 
individual to the community. 

THE school, the home, and the community are the three 
great educational agencies. So far most of our work has 
been concerned with the school. To complete the picture 
we will devote the concluding chapters to the life of the 
child at home and in the community. We will begin with 
the time when he was merely a possession of his father 
with parental love as his only protection. We will then 
show how, after a long and painfully slow development, he 
finally acquired the right to his own life as a free human 
personality. This, it will be found, the Jewish child 
achieved some centuries before the children of other 
peoples largely as a result of prophetic activity. After 
that we will describe the child's life at home and his rela- 



tlons with his parents. In the final chapter an attempt will 
be made to construct of the available biblical and Tal- 
mudic material a connected picture of the religious and 
social life of the Jewish child. 

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, not to have 
compassion on the son of her womb?" Isaiah apparently 
found it difficult even to imagine such a thing. " Is there 
a father who hates his son?" exclaims a teacher who 
lived seven or eight hundred years later. 1 This, too, was 
thought to be impossible. The former is as typical of the 
Bible as the latter of Talmudic literature. The child as 
an object of love and tender care is a familiar biblical 
figure. " When Israel was a child, then I loved him," says 
the prophet simply in the name of God. " Is Ephraim a 
dear son, a pleasant child? For as often as I speak of 
him, I do earnestly remember him still" thus another 
prophet a hundred and fifty years later. 2 The father's 
compassion for his son is a standing simile. " As a father 
pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear 
Him." 3 We read of a father who cried in despair, " O my 
son, would that I had died for theel" The same father 
fasted and wept and lay on the ground all the time another 
child of his was sick. 4 It goes without saying that the 
feelings of love and pity are even stronger in the mother. 
One recalls at once the incident, told with dignified re- 
serve, of the "great woman" of Shunem who held her 
sick child on her knees until he died; and the poignant 
simplicity of the story of Hagar who sat at a distance " and 
raised her voice and wept," unable to look on at the death 
of the child she was compelled to abandon. 5 

Such incidents have their parallels in other literatures. 
They express the simple love for the child flowing from 
the parental impulse, "nature's brightest invention," as 
William McDougall calls it. It is, however, characteristic 
of the Jewish mentality in those ancient times that chil- 


dren were never considered a burden : the Bible contains 
no suggestion of that. The child is regarded as a gift 
from God, a mark of His grace, or a manifestation of His 
will. This idea appears already in connection with the 
first child born into the world; it is typical of the Bible in 
general. 6 Children are "an heritage from the Lord," a 
reward from Him. " These are my sons whom God hath 
given me here/' Joseph informs his father. "Behold, I 
and the children whom the Lord hath given me," says 
Isaiah in the same words. And Job, expressing his resigna- 
tion to the will of God, says simply : " The Lord gave, the 
Lord hath taken away." 7 It is for this reason that children 
were often given names which made them living symbols 
of the threatened fate of the community, or of some special 
circumstance in the life of their own family. Some had 
the good fortune to be regarded as a token of God's favour 
and were rewarded with such beautiful names as " Hef zi- 
bah " or " Immanuel "; others, less fortunate, had to put up 
with such ungraceful combinations as " Ichabod " or " Lo- 
ruhamah," or with a harsh and incongruous concatenation 
like " Maher-shalal-Hash-baz." 8 In the present time, too, 
parents usually follow their own inclinations and seldom 
consider the likely psychological effect of a name. But in 
the case of the prophets the chief consideration was, of 
course, the conviction that the child was sent into the 
world on a special mission, to serve either as a warning or 
as a harbinger of good tidings to his generation. 

The son, the perpetuator of the father's line and name, 
was shown preference. This is a natural, almost instinc- 
tive idea which is hardly less active in modern than it was 
in ancient humanity. The birth of a son was an occasion 
of great joy; mourning for an only son was the current 
simile for sorrow and lamentation. 9 

It is noteworthy that this anxiety for the continuation of 
the line was as strong amongst women as amongst men, 


although it was the father's name that was preserved. 
Rachel's despairing cry, " Give me children, or else I die/' 
is merely expressive of the feelings of the childless wife 
whose position in a polygamous family must have been 
intolerable. The same may be true of Hannah's prayer. 
On the other hand, the daughters of Zelophehad plead 
apparently not on behalf of their own interests but for the 
preservation of their father's name; and the wise woman of 
Tekoa seems to be mainly concerned that " a name and a 
remainder shall be left to her husband." 10 

But it is characteristic of Jewish life in those early times 
that, whilst the son is shown greater favour, the daughter 
is not regarded as an unwelcome member of the family. 
There is no trace in the Bible of the contemptuous attitude 
to the girl so common amongst classical peoples and 
especially amongst the Greeks. There was a current proverb 
amongst the latter that " there is nothing more foolish than 
to have children." This was directed especially against the 
girl, who was apparently often exposed even if her father 
was in a position to bring her up. 11 The simple Judean 
peasant as we find him in the Bible was quite unripe for 
such a sophisticated view. His idea of happiness was a 
peaceful home after a day's toil in the field, and as de- 
scribed by the Psalmist, a wife like a fruitful vine, and a 
progeny "like olive plants (a mixed metaphor!) round the 
table." Sometimes, when in a martial mood, he likened his 
sons to arrows in the hand of a warrior; but at the same 
time he also spoke with pride of the health and beauty of 
his daughters, comparing them to "corner pillars hewn 
out as figures." 12 In the description of Job's wealth and 
greatness the writer has a word of praise for the beauty 
of the daughters whose names alone are given, although it 
may not be entirely without significance that the numerical 
proportion of daughters to sons is three to seven. Simi- 
larly, the prophet, in drawing the picture of the future 


happy state of Jerusalem when its streets will be filled by 
playing children, goes out of his way to make special men- 
tion of the girls. 13 It would be easy to multiply instances 
like these, but sufficient has been said to show that in the 
Jewish family of those early days there was little dis- 
crimination between the boy and the girl, and that as far 
as parental love is concerned both seem to have been in 
a rather happy position. 


But parental love, although a natural law, is the parents' 
gift rather than the child's right, and, as the experience 
of humanity has shown, it has never proved a sufficient 
protection for the child, even against his own parents. 
From the earliest times down to the present day the law, 
religious and civil, has always found it necessary to inter- 
vene on behalf of the child in one form or another. If 
any evidence were required for this, the Bible furnishes it 
in abundance, as we shall presently see. 

Exposure, or abandonment of unwanted children, a 
common practice in the ancient world, never spread among 
Jews. The stories of Hagar and Moses show some traces 
of this practice, and a more definite reference to it may be 
seen in EzekieFs harsh allegory of the origin of the Jewish 
people, which contains the features usually found in the 
stories of the exposure and accidental saving of undesired 
children. The Psalmist may also have had this practice in 
mind when he said, "My father and my mother have 
abandoned me, but the Lord will take me up." 14 On the 
other hand, Jeremiah, in describing an exceptionally severe 
drought, speaks of the hind in the field abandoning its off- 
spring : the exposure of children even during a famine did 
not apparently occur to him. Nor does the writer of 
Lamentations mention it in his description of the horrors 


of the siege, although he has much to say of the suffering 
of children even at the hands of their own mothers. 15 It is 
quite safe to conclude that, although isolated instances might 
have occurred, the idea of the exposure of children never 
took hold among Jews. The Jewish view of the child as 
a gift from God, combined with the economic conditions 
of an agricultural community where every child meant an 
additional worker, made Palestine unfavourable ground for 
such a custom. It was the besetting sin of the Hellenistic 
world, where social and economic conditions, and especially 
the institution of slavery, favoured its development. But 
by the time the Jews came in contact with Hellenism 
prophecy had already done its work, and this work, as 
will be shown later, affected deeply the general attitude to 
the child. 

But whilst the Jewish child of the earlier biblical period 
was safe from abandonment, he was, like the children of 
many other peoples of those times, threatened by an even 
more terrible fate : to be offered up as a sacrifice to some 
deity. And not all his parents' love would be a sufficient 
protection against that danger. On the contrary, the 
greater the love, the more acceptable the sacrifice and the 
more efficacious in gaining the favour or averting the wrath 
of some powerful but cruel god. This is the implication of 
the well-known story of " the binding of Isaac." His escape 
in the nick of time was, it would seem, at least partly due 
to the circumstance of his being an only son. The fact that 
she was an only child is also stressed in the story of 
Jephtha's daughter, but even this did not save her. 16 The 
danger to the child would be all the greater if he was a 
first-born; but the gods had apparently some special claim 
also upon the youngest. It may be said that no child was 
entirely safe from this practice, which was widespread 
amongst the Semitic as amongst other races. 17 

The biblical references to child-sacrifice are too numerous 


to be mentioned here. They cover the whole period from 
the Patriarchs to the Captivity. Both the author of Isaiah 
IviL as well as Ezekiel deal with it, the latter revert- 
ing to it in three separate prophecies with a vehemence 
which betokens recent, if not contemporary, happenings. 
How recent the practice was is evident from the passionate 
outburst of Jeremiah, who foretells a terrible fate for the 
people as a punishment for this particular crime, 18 The 
cases of Ahaz and Manasseh are singled out not because 
they were exceptional, but on account of their especial 
seriousness: the king setting an evil example to the 
people. 19 That this horrible custom was by no means un- 
common appears clearly from the prophetic writers as well 
as from the legislative codes. One passage, in Leviticus, 
chapter xx. is of particular significance in this respect. It 
decrees the death penalty by stoning for the man who 
sacrifices his child to Molech. But the writer is aware that 
" the people of the land " may not regard such a man as a 
criminal and therefore "hide their eyes" from him and 
let him go free. He therefore warns them that God Him- 
self will set His face against such a man and will cut him 
off from amongst the people. 

It is a good illustration of what Professor Stevenson de- 
scribes as "the distinction between the traditional beliefs 
and practices of the mass of the people and the higher re- 
ligion which was chiefly represented by the prophets/' 20 
It gives us some idea of the uphill fight carried on by the 
leaders of Jewish religious thought against the prevailing 
barbarism and of the part played by these leaders in the 
struggle for the liberation of the child. 

Even being made a sacrifice was not, it would appear, the 
worst that could happen to a child. If certain biblical texts 
are to be taken at their face value it seems to have been 
possible during times of acute distress for fathers and even 
mothers to kill their children for food. The Bible contains 


six passages of this kind, two of these purporting to describe 
actual occurrences. 21 One of the latter tells us of a bargain 
entered into by two mothers to slaughter and boil! their 
respective sons on successive days and share their flesh. 
The common characteristic of all these texts is that they 
deal with the same kind of situation: siege and famine. 
Cases of cannibalism in conditions of extreme necessity, 
such as siege or shipwreck, were not unknown even in 
much later times. Some such isolated incidents may have 
occurred during the siege of Samaria or Jerusalem. 
Josephus, it will be remembered, records with considerable 
circumstantial detail an occurrence of this kind during the 
siege of Jerusalem by Titus, although, curiously enough, 
he overlooks the biblical precedents. This horrible act, he 
tells us, " unheard of among Barbarians and Greeks," pro- 
duced a terrifying sensation even amongst the Zealots, 
whose inhumanity he paints in the darkest colours. 22 The 
writer of Kings also speaks of the "sensation" created: 
" When the king heard the words of the woman, he rent 
his garments" and determined to take action. But the 
atmosphere is markedly different from that which we find 
in Josephus. It reflects the conditions of an age when the 
child had not yet acquired any rights, not even the right 
to his own life. 

The greatest danger to child life was the incessant tribal 
warfare. The destruction of the enemy's infants and 
sucklings, perhaps especially the males, seems to have been 
a widespread practice. It may have been prompted not so 
much by sheer cruelty as by an anxiety to prevent future 
blood-revenge, which made the position all the worse for 
the child. One cannot read without a shock such phrases 
as " dashing the little ones to pieces," or " breaking them 
against the rock." 23 Yet recent history has known similar 
incidents, and most modern warfare seems to hold as little 
promise for the child as that of primitive times. 



The Babylonian captivity was a turning-point in the his- 
tory of Judaism, but perhaps in no sphere of life was the 
change from pre-exilic conditions more marked than in 
the position of the child. If the attitude to childhood may 
be taken as an index of social progress, then the advance 
shown by the post-exilic community is very remarkable in- 
deed. In the earlier times the child was a possession, the 
property of his father, who could deal with him as he 
dealt with his other possessions. "The fruit of the body 
and the fruit of the cattle and the fruit of the ground" 
simply, almost naturally, come together in the literature 
of the time, whether in blessings or in curses. 24 The Jewish 
father probably never possessed "the exclusive, absolute, 
and perpetual" dominion over his children which was 
peculiar to Roman law; yet he too could sell them, give 
them away in discharge of a debt, and in the earliest time, 
it would seem, even put them to death for reasons of his 
own. 25 In the relations between father and child it is the 
former's interests that are invariably considered: his love 
or his hate; his joy or his mourning; his loss or his gain. 
The idea that the child may have rights and interests of 
his own, even when life and death are concerned, had not 
yet dawned upon the mass of the people. A striking illus- 
tration is furnished by one incident in the story of Joseph. 
Reuben pleads with Jacob to entrust Benjamin to his 
charge so that he may take him down to Egypt. To re- 
assure his aged father he says to him : " Slay my two sons 
if I bring him not to thee." 26 If he causes pain to Jacob 
by depriving him of a valued possession, he is prepared to 
have pain inflicted upon himself through being deprived 
of similar valued possessions. The thought that either 
Benjamin or the sons of Reuben may be entitled to have 
a say in the matter does not apparently occur to anyone. 


To understand the position more clearly it should be 
remembered that the family as a whole, and not the in- 
dividual human being, was regarded as the social and 
religious unit. Within the family every member was re- 
sponsible for every other, this responsibility extending be- 
yond the confines of one generation. When Achan " com- 
mitted a trespass in the devoted thing " the " Herem " 
he brought destruction upon all his household; and the 
sons of Saul had to give their lives to expiate their father's 
guilt. 27 But the family was presided over by the father, 
who wielded absolute power over all its members at least 
until they were grown up. This smaller unit formed, in 
its turn, part of a larger one, the tribe, or the people, where 
again the members were responsible for one another " unto 
the third and the fourth generation." In neither unit was 
there room for the individual's freedom or his moral re- 
sponsibility : he was swallowed up by the family or sub- 
merged by the tribe. 

It took many ages and the indomitable work of a re- 
markable succession of men like Jeremiah and Ezekiel 
before the citadel of primitive tribalism was shaken and the 
idea of individual moral responsibility began to take hold 
of the people's mind. How firmly rooted the ancient out- 
look was even as late as the Captivity is evidenced by 
Ezekiel's impetuous attacks. Again and again, in dealing 
with this subject, he exclaims : " Yet you say, ' The way of 
the Lord is not equal. 3 Hear now, O house of Israel, is not 
my way equal? Are not your ways unequal?" Jeremiah's 
plaintive musings about the established view have de- 
veloped into a fierce conviction that it must be destroyed. 28 
Even if we adopt the view, forcibly argued by Professor 
Stevenson, 28a that the prophet thinks in terms of individual 
generations rather than individual human beings, Ezekiel's 
work was an essential stage in the development of the con- 
ception of the free personality, one of the most valuable 


contributions of Judaism to human civilisation. It paved 
the way for such a book as Job, with its passionate protest 
on behalf of the ordinary human being who is torn by 
the conflict between faith in individual justice and ignor- 
ance of its working. The solution of the conflict was there- 
after sought along two different lines : on the one hand it 
led the disillusioned few to the pessimistic egoism of 
Ecclesiastes, who reached an almost complete negative in 
his social and moral speculations; and on the other to the 
belief in life after death, which became widely accepted by 
the masses of the people. With this the conception of the 
free, morally responsible human personality reached its 
final stage and became the predominant element in Jewish 
social thought. It found an almost perfect expression in 
the well-known rabbinical saying: "He who saves one 
human life it is accounted to him as if he has saved a 
whole universe." 29 And this idea of the sacredness of life, 
of its being an ultimate value given by God and not de- 
pendent upon any external conditions, applied to the new- 
born child as to the full-grown man. 30 Hence the remark- 
able fact, which has not yet received its due recognition in 
the history of education, that the child in the Jewish com- 
munity achieved his human rights, the unquestioned right 
to his own life, centuries earlier than in the Hellenistic 
world, where exposing was not considered a capital crime 
until the sixth century c.E. 31 This is all the more remark- 
able when one remembers that in Palestine itself, during 
the Roman period, abandonment of children was quite 
common amongst the non-Jewish elements of the mixed 
towns. 32 Only when the Jewish view of the sanctity of life 
had, through the medium of Christianity, penetrated into 
the wider world was the monster of infanticide in its 
various ugly forms finally destroyed. 33 



The Greeks and the Jews differed fundamentally in their 
political and social ideals, and, as a natural consequence of 
that, also in their attitude to the child. It is more than a 
mere coincidence that at about the same time when the 
greatest thinker of classical Greece, Plato, formulated his 
theory of the state which demanded the complete sub- 
mergence of the individual, the nameless Jewish writer of 
Job made the most fervent plea ever uttered on behalf of 
this same individual. The Greek thinker, at least in theory, 
knew of no distinction between conscience and public duty; 
the man, to him, was lost in the citizen. And Hellenistic 
education, in theory and in practice, sought the good of 
the community, not the good of the individual. "The 
state," Aristotle teaches us, "is by nature prior to the 
family and to the individual, since the whole is of neces- 
sity prior to the part." In the last analysis, as Professor 
Zimmern rightly says, "the weakness of Greek political 
speculation can be traced back to the weakness of Greek re- 
ligion." 34 Among the Jews of post-exilic times the idea 
of the state, even during the lifetime of the independent 
monarchy, never rose to exclusive importance. There was 
another factor religion, which steadily grew more power- 
ful until, in the period following the Roman wars, it com- 
pletely dominated Jewish life and thought. The child was 
not devoted to the service of the state, but, in rabbinical 
language, "consecrated to the Torah." In an education 
system animated by such an aim individuality could never 
be lost sight of. The individual human being was not 
turned into raw material for the advancement of the 
abstract idea of the state or the community. 

To what extent the Jews have ever been a politically- 
minded people cannot be fully discussed here. But one 
suggestive fact may be mentioned. When in 63 B.C.E. 


deputations from the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristo- 
bulus waited upon Pompey in Damascus to decide between 
their respective claims to the throne, there was also another 
deputation there asking for the abolition of royalty and 
the restoration of the old priestly constitution. These were 
representatives of the Pharisees who renounced the claims 
to political independence and would be satisfied with a 
religious community. 35 That they represented a promi- 
nent body of Jewish opinion is proved by the subsequent 
course of Jewish history. After 135 C.E. those elements 
formulated a new ideal of life, religious instead of political, 
and saved the Jewish people from extinction. It is sig- 
nificant that their opponents, the Sadducees, who were in- 
fluenced by Hellenistic political theory, had no use for the 
conception of life after death : the individual man had no 
existence for them apart from the member of the state. 

How the Jewish educationist in the Talmudic period 
dealt with the problems of the relation of the individual 
to the community has been discussed more fully in another 
chapter. Here it is only necessary to say that he strove to 
harmonise the claims of the two rather than to exalt the 
one at the expense of the other. It may be true that whilst 
the Greek theorist pitched the demands of the state too 
high, the Jewish thinker sometimes pitched them too low; 
yet he was always careful not to over-emphasise the value 
of individuality. We may sum up his view by saying that 
he denied perfection even to Moses, 36 whilst insisting at 
the same time on the sanctity and uniqueness of the 
humblest life. 

The following from the Talmud is characteristic in this 
connection. "Rav Shesheth (a scholar of the beginning 
of the fourth century) used to revise his studies every 
thirty days, after which he leaned against the handle of the 
door and said, ( Rejoice, my soul; for thy good did I learn 
the Bible; for thy good did I learn the Mishnah," The 


Talmud apparently feels the crudity of this extreme 
individualism and asks, "But surely this is not right; 
for did not Rabbi Eleazar say, * But for the Torah heaven 
and earth would have no existence'?" that is, the aim 
of study must be the benefit of the whole community. 
To this the answer is given, "But at the beginning he 
studied for his own sake " the community derived the 
benefit automatically, 37 Four hundred years previously, 
Hillel, one of the founders of rabbinical Judaism, formu- 
lated his solution of the eternal problem in the well-known 
saying: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 
But if I am for myself alone, what am I?" 38 Translated 
into modern language this amounts to saying that whilst 
individuality is the fundamental fact of life, the individual 
can achieve his self-realisation only in the social activities 
of the community. This also is perhaps an imperfect solu- 
tion, but a more satisfactory one is yet to come. Another 
builder of rabbinical Judaism, a man who did not shrink 
from the supreme sacrifice for a social ideal, expressed the 
same thought in a significant statement : " Beloved is man, 
created in the image of God; beloved are Israel who were 
given charge of the Torah." But it will be noted that 
"man" comes first. 39 



I. Ben-SIra's views on the treatment of the child. The views 
of Proverbs and other biblical books. 1 1. The new attitude in 
the Talmud. Children's toys and games. The influence of re- 
ligious ceremonial and symbolism. III. Yet the regime at 
home was often of a stern nature. Frequent punishments. 
Illustrations from rabbinical literature. Flogging as a " pre- 
ventive " measure. Similar incidents among other peoples. 
The relations between parents and children. " Fear " and 
11 honour " of parents. 

" He that loveth his son will continue to lay strokes upon him, 
That he may rejoice over him at the last. 
He that disciplineth his son shall have satisfaction of him, 
And among his acquaintance glory in him. 

# *> * * * 
He that pampereth his son shall bind up his wounds 1 
And his heart trembleth at every cry. 

An unbroken horse becometh stubborn 

And a son left at large becometh headstrong. 

Cocker thy son and he will terrify thee; 

Play with him and he will grieve thee. 

Laugh not with him, lest he vex thee, 

And make thee gnash thy teeth at the last. 

Let him not have freedom in his youth, 

And overlook not his mischievous acts. 

Bow down his neck in his youth 

And smite his loins sore while he is little, 

Lest he become stubborn and rebel against thee. 

* * * * * 
Discipline thy son and make his yoke heavy, 

Lest in his folly he stumble." 3 

THIS is a good summary of the " wisdom of the ancients " 
on the eternal problem of the child. A problem it cer- 



tainly was, or the moralists would not have returned to it 
again and again as they did. But the solution was 
apparently everywhere the same; Athens, Rome, and Jeru- 
salem showing a remarkable unanimity, apart from some 
minor local differences. Ben-Sira has no new ideas on the 
subject. The writer of Proverbs preached the same wis- 
dom before him. Indeed, this may be said to be one of the 
few " theories " on which the Bible shows absolute consist- 
ency. " It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his 
youth " thus the writer of Lamentations. 3 A father who 
fails to put the yoke on his son has himself to thank for the 
evil consequences to which this is bound to lead. Adonijah 
rebelled against David because he was a pampered child 
and "his father never displeased him saying, 'Why hast 
thou done so?' " David, of course, was a " soft " father, as 
witness his attitude to Absalom. So was Eli, who failed 
to "restrain" his sons with disastrous consequences to 
himself and his family. 4 The wise father, and one who 
really loves his children, will not miss the lesson of these 
historical incidents. He will suppress his own feelings and 
show Ms children a stern face. He will demand from them 
respect and strict obedience. 5 Children are often foolish 
and recalcitrant. 6 Only the rod will keep them on the 
right path. A good beating will not kill a boy. It will, 
on the other hand, "drive out" his natural foolishness 
and save his soul from hell. More than that, it will even 
produce positive results : it will impart " wisdom." It is 
true that a rebuke will sometimes be sufficient for the 
sensible boy. But there are others whose foolishness " will 
not depart even if you bray them in a mortar with a 
pestle." The rod is the most hopeful means of correction, 
whilst one can hardly rely on the effectiveness of mere 
talk. 7 

This may be said to be a fair representation of the views 
of the average Jewish parent as they are reflected in such a 


book as Proverbs, or Ben-Sira, which merely reiterates the 
same thoughts in different words. The indirect hints we 
get in other books of the Bible are entirely consistent with 
these views. But there is hardly anything peculiarly 
biblical or Jewish about these ideas on discipline. They 
express the practical " psychology " of the man-in-the-street 
throughout the ages and all over the world. "The rod 
and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself 
causeth shame to his mother," teaches us the author of 
Proverbs. "A man unflogged is a man untrained," says 
Menander, perhaps a little more crudely. 8 "A whip for 
the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of 
fools/ 7 says the writer of Proverbs sagely. Ben-Sira, as 
often, merely repeats this thought in a different and less 
effective style. "An unbroken horse becometh stubborn, 
and a son left at large becometh headstrong." But it was 
left to an Englishman of recent times to put this trite idea 
in quite elegant verse : " Students, like horses on. the road, 
must be well lash'd before they can take the load. They 
may be willing for a time to run, but you must whip 
them ere the work be done." 

How much the Bible was responsible for the spread of 
such ideas is a different question. That it had its influence 
on the training of children, both among Jews and Chris- 
tians, there can be little doubt. The world's childhood 
owes a great many floggings to such a saying as : " He that 
spareth the rod hateth his son." Epigrams of this kind 
which are regarded as crystallising in verbal form the col- 
lective social wisdom of past generations may play an im- 
portant part in shaping men's reactions, especially when 
they appear to give sanction to a natural impulse. 9 This 
is what seems to have happened in our case: the biblical 
epigram supplied a justification for the natural harsh 
tendency in the training of children which was common 
amongst all nations down to most recent times. 



Progress in the views on the nature of childhood has 
been painfully slow among Jews as among other peoples 
until almost our own days, when humanity seems to have 
made a sudden leap forward. But progress there has heen 
all the time, and it is a fascinating study to trace the 
almost Imperceptible, halting steps by which the child has 
advanced to his emancipation. A comparison of rabbinical 
and biblical literature will reveal one of these steps. 

The Talmud, as is to be expected from its size and the 
wide range of the topics dealt with in its pages, affords us 
much more abundant material than the Bible for the study 
of our subject. But it is not the quantity that matters 
although even this is not without its significance but the 
unmistakably new attitude which we find there. A sug- 
gestion of this change of attitude is already contained in 
such a book as Tobit with its moving description of the 
relations between father and son. It is even more strongly 
felt in the atmosphere of the New Testament, where the 
child is always approached with tenderness and sympathy. 
But it is the Talmud with its abundance of detail that 
enables us to see how this new attitude was translated into 
practice. " A child," we are told by a rabbi of the second 
century C.E., "is to be repelled with the left hand and 
attracted with the right." 10 In this saying the child forms 
one of a group of three. The other two are : the natural 
instincts, which are not to be entirely suppressed but must 
be allowed a certain amount of free play; and the woman, 
who since the times of the Bible had gained in legal posi- 
tion but lost in social status, and who was usually regarded 
as a light-minded, irresponsible creature. 11 

Now, that " right hand " was a new departure in the rela- 
tions between the adult world and the child. In the Bible 
the child is mostly loved, sometimes hated, seldom under- 


stood. Methods of discipline are usually of a negative 
kind : suppression and restraint by means of the rod. At 
the best restraint takes the form of rebuke. In the Talmud 
we meet for the first time with the effort to understand 
the child, to awaken his interest, to win his active sym- 
pathy. This was a concession wrung out by childhood, 
ever-assertive and irrepressible, from the adult world. 

The term by which the child is usually denoted in the 
Talmud shows already the difference in attitude. The 
somewhat prosaic biblical words for " child," " youth/' or 
" son " have given place to the warmer and more intimate 
" suckling " and " the little one." " Childhood," a Talmudic 
teacher tells us, "is a crown of roses "; and another wistfully 
adds : " Alas ! it goes never to return/' 12 We read of a con- 
siderable variety of children's toys, of which there seems to 
be no mention in the Bible, except, perhaps, in the matter 
of dress. 13 Thus we find " the chair of the little one," the 
"wooden horse," special helmets used by children when 
playing at soldiers, and, of course, the ubiquitous 
ball. This " new spirit " sometimes found its expression in 
curious ways. We read, for instance, of a rabbi who 
bought earthenware dishes for his children to play with 
in order to satisfy their impulse for breaking things! 14 

Fathers were even expected to take an active share in 
their children's amusements, especially on the Sabbaths 
and the festivals when they were free from work. We find 
frequent references to the child riding on his father's 
shoulders, which seems to have been a general practice. 
We have even a case of a scholar who was discovered by 
his colleagues, who came to consult him on some legal 
matter, in the act of crawling on all fours to amuse his 
children. 15 In more recent times, as has been shown 
before, such behaviour on the part of a rabbi would have 
been considered most unbecoming. 

In order to attract the little ones to the Synagogue, bells 


were attached to the wrappers of the scrolls of the Law. 
Such bells were sometimes also fastened to a baby's cradle 
in order to soothe it to sleep. 16 One legend tells us of a 
pretty custom, which obtained at least in one place, to 
plant a cedar at the birth of a boy and a cypress at the 
birth of a girl. Later on when the children grew up and 
were to be married planks were taken from these trees to 
make the canopy for the wedding ceremony. 17 

Children then, as at all times, were apt to indulge in 
mischief, and the Talmud contains numerous indirect refer- 
ences to their pranks and tricks. They play with sheep in 
the field and mischievously tie their tails together remind- 
ing us of the escapade of Samson; they tease cats and get 
badly scratched so that a special leather cover for the chest 
has to be devised for them. Sometimes they expose them- 
selves to greater dangers : they fall into the sea, into pits, 
go away far from town and are attacked by beasts of prey. 
Once a special fast was proclaimed by the elders in Jeru- 
salem because two children were devoured by wolves in 
Trans-Jordania. Regular feasts were also held for the sake 
of children who suffered from digestive ailments. 18 Little 
gifts of dainties were distributed among children on various 
occasions. These usually took the form of parched wheat, 
honey, and especially nuts, on which, according to the 
Talmud, children are very keen. At least in one case we 
read of fish as a special prize for good behaviour! 19 

But, in addition to such direct means, there was the in- 
direct but infinitely more powerful influence exercised on 
the child by the rich symbolism and ceremonial of re- 
ligious life as it developed in the Talmudic period. The 
Sabbath, the festivals and the fasts, with the wealth of 
tradition that had grown around them even at that early 
period; the Synagogue and the home ritual, all appealed 
to the child's imagination, and in all the child was en- 
couraged to play an active part. Much of this ritual, as, 


for instance, the outstanding example of the Passover 
night, was directly designed with this aim in view. These 
were educational influences of a positive nature, of which 
the Bible has hardly a glimpse. They were not based on 
a clearly formulated theory of the place of interest in edu- 
cation, but on a more intimate and sympathetic under- 
standing of the nature of childhood. 


It would, however, be rash to conclude from the pre- 
ceding discussion that the Jewish child in Talmudic times, 
any more than his Greek or Roman contemporary, was 
allowed to lead a " soft " life. On the contrary, there is 
sufficient evidence to show that the regime under which 
children lived, both at home and at school, was often 
of a stern nature. Using the Talmudic simile of the left 
and right hands, one would be right in saying that the left, 
as with some pugilists, was at times the heavier. 

In commenting on the popular verse which has served 
throughout the ages as the charter of the floggers, "He 
who spares his rod, hateth his son/' the rabbis ask : " Is 
there a man who hates his son?" The answer is that if 
he forbears from chastising his son, he will encourage him 
in his bad habits and will end by hating him. 20 It was an 
accepted idea that a man must " put fear " into the hearts 
of the members of his household, although he is warned 
against overdoing it. How this domestic " f rightf ulness " 
was practised we are shown by several examples of scholars 
who went the length of throwing and breaking things I 21 

Indulgence, especially in the matter of food, was strongly 
discouraged, " because it leads to sin." A father is obliged 
to maintain his children whilst they are young, but he 
must not accustom them to such luxuries as meat and 
wine. 22 Punishments were frequent and sometimes severe 


in the extreme. In the course of a discussion on the duties 
of a son the view is expressed that a child usually stands 
in greater fear of his teacher than of his father. Various 
recorded incidents seem to show, however, that in real life 
this was not always the case. 

"Once the son of Gorgias of Lydda ran away from 
school and his father threatened him. The boy took 
fright and committed suicide by throwing himself into a 
well." It is interesting to compare this with the story of 
the truant boy in the third mime of Herondas. There the 
mother brings him to the teacher, who inflicts on him a 
savage flogging. The Jewish father apparently stood in no 
need of the teacher's help when he had to deal with such 
a case. 

Another story, found in the same place, is no less sig- 
nificant. "Once a child in Bene-Berak broke a glass on 
the Sabbath (thus being guilty of the desecration of the 
holy day), and his father threatened him. So the boy took 
fright and threw himself into a well." 23 These were ob- 
viously exceptional cases of highly-strung or neurotic chil- 
dren, but they throw some light on the nature of the home 
discipline to which the child was subjected. On the basis 
of these facts the following rule is formulated for the 
guidance of parents and teachers : " One must not threaten 
a child, but either punish him at once, or pass the offence 
over in silence and say nothing." 24 The modern teacher 
would express his full agreement with this rule. 

These incidents belong to an early period. But there are 
numerous indirect references in later literature to floggings 
inflicted by a father upon his son. " The flogging father " 
is, in fact, quite a standing phrase. From repeated warn- 
ings against it one is entitled to infer that even grown-up 
sons were not immune from corporal punishment. 25 

The infliction of punishment was not, however, the pre- 
rogative of the father alone. We hear occasionally also of 


mothers who performed that duty. 26 But it was generally 
recognised that a "boy fears his father more than his 
mother." The reason is rather significant: "because his 
father teaches him the Torah." 27 Evidently learning the 
Torah was not always a pleasurable activity. This is con- 
firmed in another place where we are told that when a 
man teaches his son the Torah, he should teach him with 
sternness. A rule going back to the second century C.E. 
makes a distinction in this respect between junior and 
senior children, if we are to use the modern terminology. 
" Up till twelve years a man should deal leniently with his 
son; after that age he should adopt stern measures," if he 
is unwilling to learn. 28 

According to one opinion, a father who killed his son in 
the process of chastisement was not to be held responsible 
for his action, as he merely fulfilled his duty of directing 
him in the right way. The same law applied to the teacher 
also. In a discussion on this point a scholar of the fourth 
century C.E. gives it as his view that even if the boy is a 
willing student it is still the father's and presumably also 
the teacher's duty to chastise him, evidently as a pre- 
ventive measure! 29 This, as is seen from the context, is 
merely a debating point. But it is strongly reminiscent of 
the story of the Christian saint who, whilst a boy, was 
punished by his teacher every morning. The idea was 
that, although the boy had not deserved the punishment 
yet, he was sure to deserve it some time; the chastisement 
was therefore merely in the nature of payment in advance. 

It is only fair to the ancients to say that there were 
teachers many centuries later who quite independently con- 
ceived the idea of flogging not as a punishment for an 
offence, nor as a means of reform, but as an end in itself. 
Erasmus was flogged on this principle. His master, with 
whom he was a favourite, flogged him just to see how he 
could bear the pain. Of the same master it is said that 



whenever he dined in his school, one or two boys were 
served up to be flogged by way of dessert. A meek, gentle 
boy was flogged by him on one o these occasions for some 
pretended fault till the victim was fainting under the 
scourge, "not that he deserved this/' said the master to 
Erasmus, "but it was fit to humble him." Yet this 
teacher was said to have been a good man who delighted 
in children. 30 From the latter part of the nineteenth 
century we have a story by a well-known Jewish humorist, 
whose teacher also struck the idea of "payment in advance" 
and made it a rule to flog his pupil every morning. 

The picture of the relations of parents and children in 
Talmudic times would not be complete without the follow- 
ing extracts. These should not, however, be taken as 
descriptive of real conditions, but rather as a striving after 
the ideal. 

"There are three partners in man: the Holy One, 
blessed be He; the father; and the mother. When a man 
honours his father and his mother, the Holy One, blessed 
be He, says : ' I consider it as if I had lived amongst them 
and the honour was done to Myself.' " 

In commenting upon the biblical verses which enjoin 
the fear and the honour of parents, the rabbis ask : " What 
is 'fear' and what is 'honour'? 'Fear' means that one 
must not stand or sit in the place which is usually the 
father's; nor must one contradict him, or even induce him 
to reach a decision when he is in doubt; ' honour ' means that 
the father is to be provided with food and drink, clothing 
and bed-coverings, and to be led in and out of the house." 31 

Many stories are told by the rabbis of the manner in 
which certain outstanding people treated their parents. 
Some of these are quite obviously of a legendary nature, 
but the following two are not without interest. Rabbi 
Tarphon, a famous teacher of the early second century, had 
an old mother. Whenever she wanted to go up to bed, he 


bent down so that she might step on him. The same he 
did when she had to come down from bed. When he came 
to the Synagogue and boasted about it, he was told : " You 
have not done even half of what is necessary for the fulfil- 
ment of the commandment to honour parents." Rab 
Joseph, a blind scholar of the end of the third and begin- 
ning of the fourth centuries, when he heard his mother's 
footsteps, used to say: "Let me rise before the divine 
presence that is about to enter." And it should be remem- 
bered that the mother usually took the second place. 32 



I. Religion was co-extensive with life. The child's first years 
at home. " Outward " signs. Symbols designed to arouse the 
child's curiosity. II. The festivals. The Sabbath Pentecost 
New Year the Day of Atonement Tabernacles Passover. 
III. The school and the Synagogue. The community's interest 
in the boy's education. " Tell me your verse." 

THE Jewish child of the Talmudic age was gradually accus- 
tomed to all those practices and observances which were 
obligatory upon the adult. 1 This applied to the home and 
the school as well as to the Synagogue. The sharp dis- 
tinction between the religious and the secular, which often 
renders futile the best efforts of the modern teacher of 
religion, was not known then. Religion was not confined 
to certain hours and to certain places; and nothing would 
have been stranger to the minds of those people than special 
lessons devoted to it. It was co-extensive with life and 
controlled every action of man. 

From birth the child grew up in this intense religious 
atmosphere which pervaded the home no less than the 
Synagogue. As soon as he began to crawl about he could 
not fail to notice the symbolic sign on the doorpost, about 
which he would presently ask his eager questions. This 
was only the beginning of an extraordinarily elaborate 
system of symbolism which would gradually unfold itself 
before him, making an ever stronger appeal to his native 
curiosity. Most of these symbols, although he did not 
know it, were specially designed with a view to arous- 



ing his interest and eliciting his questions. Perhaps on 
Ms first venturing outside, in the courtyard, he would 
come across other signs, in connection with some sab- 
batical regulations, which were kept alive only for his 
sake. 2 

Soon he would be taken to the Synagogue. That would 
be before his school career had begun. 3 There he would 
have innumerable questions to ask about the curious things 
which he saw for the first time : the pulpit, the ark, the 
scrolls, the bells on the wrappers of these, which ring when- 
ever they are raised again for his benefit. 4 


But his most vivid impressions would be associated with 
the festivals and fasts, of which every one made its peculiar 
appeal to his imagination, and in most of which there was 
a special part reserved for him. 

There was first of all the weekly day of rest and peace 
the Sabbath, with the changed appearance of the house, 
with the different clothes and special meals, with the lights 
and the cup of wine for " sanctification." Even if his father 
were very poor he would contrive to obtain at least that. 5 
His father might perhaps tell him something from the 
story of the Creation, which he had probably heard already 
many times, but still loved to hear again; also some of the 
legendary tales connected with the holy day/ 6 

Besides such festivals as Pentecost, the main interest of 
which consisted in the story connected with it, there 
were others offering him opportunities for a more active 
part. There was the New Year with its air of solemnity, 
relieved perhaps by the " blowing of the horn." If con- 
sidered clever enough, he would himself get a chance of 
trying it, or even of practising it. 7 Then there came the 
"Day of Atonement/' He was not expected to fast the 


whole day; but he would show his manliness by waiting as 
long as possible for his first meal. 8 

With the feeling of pride which this manly deed had 
aroused in him still fresh, he entered upon the prepara- 
tions for the great festival of Tabernacles, with the building 
of the booth, in which he would strive to do more than his 
share. His father would tell him the story of the wander- 
ings in the wilderness. He would even allow him to handle 
the citron and shake the " palm branch " as the grown-ups 
were doing. 9 

But best of all he loved the festival of Passover, to 
which he had been looking forward during the whole 
winter. There was a complete change in the house for a 
whole week; different dishes, different food, and a wealth 
of signs and symbols every one connected with a fascinating 
story. In the elaborate ceremonial of the first evening he 
was the chief actor and all the arrangements were made 
for his sake. All sorts of expedients would be employed to 
arouse his interest and to make him ask questions. And, 
in answer, his father would tell the story of the miraculous 
departure from Egypt a story which he had heard so 
many times but could not grow tired of. He would cer- 
tainly try to ask clever and unexpected questions and not be 
like other boys who had to be taught by their fathers what 
to ask. 10 


Meantime his school life had begun. Early in the morn- 
ing his mother 11 would take him to school, which was in the 
Synagogue. There he would spend the whole day. He would 
see the services of the grown-ups, who were saying the same 
prayers that he was learning from his teacher, and he would 
feel that he was learning something of real value. He 
would soon begin the Pentateuch, and, if clever enough, 
would be given a chance, during the Synagogue service on 


the Sabbath, of reading the Scripture lesson which he had 
studied the whole week. His father and his teacher would 
be present, 12 and perhaps also his mother looking on 
from the women's part of the Synagogue. 

Sometimes people came into the Synagogue and asked 
him the verse he had memorised that day. 13 More often 
that would happen when he would be on his way home 
from school after a very long and hard day's work. Yet 
he was glad of the opportunity to say " his verse/' For 
he would soon learn that people did not do it merely 
In order to test his knowledge, but for a more serious pur- 
pose: to decide their own affairs, sometimes of a rather 
important nature, according to the meaning of the verse. 
They would treat his verse as a prophecy. 14 It might very 
well happen that the great rabbi himself, who was the head 
of the whole community, and to whom everybody paid 
such great respect, would meet him, ask him for his verse, 
and perhaps commend him for the manner in which he 
had acquitted himself. 15 

After such a meeting he would feel rather proud and 
well satisfied with his day's work, which, though long and 
hard, was never dull or entirely devoid of adventure. 



THERE are a number of well-known Talmudic texts which 
apparently conflict with the conclusions reached in this 
chapter as regards the venue of the elementary school as 
well as its historical development in general. These texts 
are of a legendary character and can hardly be treated as 
historical documents, except for one which is of a more 
serious nature. The former will be dealt with first. 

Sabbath, 310. "Again it happened that a certain non- 
Jew passed behind a ' house of study ' * Beth Hamidrash ' 
and heard the voice of a teacher ' sopher ' who said, 
* And these are the garments which they shall make ' (for 
the high priest, Exod. xxviii. 4). So he came to Shammai 
and said to him, * Convert me to Judaism on condition that 
you make me high priest/" etc. Rashi explains that 
" sopher " means an elementary teacher. 

If taken at its face-value, it would prove that in the time 
of Shammai and Hillel, that is in the first century B.C.E., 
children were taught in the " Beth-Hamidrash " a term 
which really means not the elementary school but the high 
school. But this story belongs to a cycle of legends about 
Hillel and clearly has no historic value. 

Taanith, 236. A long and rather interesting story about 
the grandson of Honi Hameaggel, first century B.C.E. To 
the question why he gave one piece of bread to his older 
son and two to the younger, he answered, " The older stays 
at home and the younger in the Synagogue." Here, too, 
Rashi explains: "Before the teacher, and does not come 
home all day." This again belongs to a series of legends 


about Honi, a favourite subject for all kinds of fanciful 
tales. It reflects the conditions of a much later age. 

Gittin, 58^. " There were 400 synagogues in the town of 
Bethar (the fortress where Bar-Kochba made his last stand; 
fell about 135 C.E.). In every one of these there were 400 
elementary teachers; every one of those had before him 400 
pupils," etc. Although the tradition is reported in the 
name of Simon ben Gamaliel, second century C.E., it is on 
the face of it too fantastic to be treated seriously. It must 
have originated much later when the Synagogue was 
already the communal centre and the usual home of the 
school. It is rather interesting to compare this with the 
Greek story about the murder of school-children by 
Thracian mercenaries, quoted by Mahaffy ("Old Greek 
Education," 48). 

A more serious objection to the writer's views on the 
relation of the Synagogue and the school may be raised on 
the strength of an early but somewhat obscure Mishnah 
on Sabbath. It states as follows: "Verily, they said, the 
hazzan ' may look on where the children read on Friday 
evening, but he may not read himself " f or fear of inad- 
vertently adjusting the candle. Rashi gives two alternative 
explanations of the meaning of " hazzan/' According to 
the first, he is the Synagogue official in charge of the 
liturgical readings from the Bible, who looks on at the 
children reading in the Synagogue on Friday evening so as 
to make sure which lesson from the Scriptures is to be read 
during the service on the following day. According to the 
other explanation, the " hazzan " is the teacher who looks 
up the lesson his pupils are to do on the morrow, Maimon- 
ides and others explain the passage in a somewhat similar 
manner. The views of the modern writers may be 
summed up in the words of A. R. S. Kennedy, in " Hastings' 
Dictionary of the Bible " : " By all writers on Jewish educa- 
tion it is stated that the Synagogue officer . . . was the 


teacher of the Synagogue school. This uniform tradition 
seems founded on a precept regarding Sabbath observance 
in the Mishnah . . . where even on the sacred day the 
'hazzan* is allowed to look on where the children are 
reading, but he may not read himself/' He then goes on 
to make a distinction between two kinds of " hazzan/' one 
a Synagogue official, the other a teacher. 

Now if this were correct it would afford strong proof 
that in the early Mishnaic period the school was already 
very intimately associated with the Synagogue, where it 
was usually housed. It is necessary first of all to point out 
that the " uniform tradition " of which Dr. Kennedy speaks 
rests on a very flimsy foundation this solitary and obscure 
passage. Nowhere else in the Talmud, although the word 
occurs frequently, does "hazzan" denote a teacher. It 
usually means either the Synagogue official or the executive 
officer attached to the court of justice. The name for a 
teacher was in the earlier period " sopher," or " melamed 
tinokoth," these terms later on changing to their Aramaic 
equivalents. The truth would seem to be that the Mishnah 
does not speak of an actual lesson taking place in the 
Synagogue on Friday evening. Surely it would be an 
extraordinary sort of lesson with the pupils reading and 
the teacher forbidden to do so ! All that the passage says 
is that the " hazzan " who is in charge of the Synagogue 
service may look up the scroll on a Friday evening to ascer- 
tain the portions of the Bible studied by the children in 
their teacher's home that week, so that he may arrange the 
liturgical readings accordingly. He may do only that, but 
is not allowed to read. 

On the other hand, in a somewhat similar passage a few 
pages later we read that school-children used to arrange the 
portions of the Bible and read by the light of a candle on 
Friday evening. But here it is not simply " children," but 
" children of their teacher's house" "tinokoth shel beth 


rabban." The significance of this expression, which in 
later times came to be applied to all school-children, should 
not be lost. It shows clearly that in the early stages of its 
growth the school was not held in the Synagogue, but in 
the teacher's house. (See also Tosephta, edition Schwarz, 
Sabbath, chapter i.) 

The question why the school is not mentioned before the 
New Testament, and even there only once, is not, therefore, 
due to the fact " that the school was so intimately associ- 
ated with the Synagogue that in ordinary speech the two 
were not distinguished " (G. H. B. in " Cheyne's Diet. 
of the Bib." art. Educ.). The explanation is simpler. It is 
that the school at that early period was a private institu- 
tion in the initial stage of its growth, and as yet of little 
prominence in the people's life. Its real growth began 
some time in the second century C.E. It did not become 
identified with the Synagogue until after the Mishnaic 
period that is, after 200 C.E. 



i. The folio wing observations may help us to gain a 
clearer idea of this subject of which little has so far been 
done in the way of systematic study. The term " Talmudic 
period" is very wide and is sometimes used by writers in 
a rather indefinite manner. At its full extent, as it is in- 
tended to be understood here, it covered almost a thousand 
years from the early scribes down to the completion of 
the Talmud in the sixth century C.E. It embraced the 
Persian, Greek, and Roman periods of Jewish history, with 
all the social, political, and religious movements associated 
with them. It saw the rise of the political state in the 
Hasmonean period and its final downfall in 135 CJE. Dur- 
ing the whole of this long period the Jewish people was 
subjected to spiritual influences from the outside which 
deeply affected its whole outlook on life. 

Again, from the beginning of the third century C.E. we 
have to deal with two separate communities the Baby- 
lonian and the Palestinian. From that time the former 
began to play an increasingly important part in Jewish life 
until it became the spiritual centre for the whole of Jewry. 

It is obvious that education, if it was to perform any 
useful social function, had to adapt itself continually to the 
changing conditions of life. And this adaptation, or de- 
velopment, would, first of all, be reflected in the curri- 
culum, in the scope as well as the type of study which 
would be considered a desirable education. 



The Jewish school retained its fundamentally religious 
character throughout the ages. For Jewish social and 
communal life, after the fall of the state, found its expres- 
sion in religious activity, and the Synagogue became " the 
people's house." But religion itself was continually develop- 
ing as a result of changing external and internal conditions. 
The education of a Jewish child in the Persian period was 
a very different thing, in its scope and its nature, from the 
religious instruction a follower of the Pharisees would give 
his son in Roman times. Almost as great a difference 
would be found between the time of Herod, for instance, 
and the fourth or fifth century in some Jewish community 
in Babylonia. Thus, for example, what Ben-Sira, strongly 
under the influence of Hellenistic philosophy, would regard 
as a good education for a youth, would be rejected by a 
man like Hillel. Nor could Ben-Sira have ever dreamt that 
a time would come when his own book would be included 
by authoritative opinion among forbidden literature. 
(Sanhedrin, loofc.) 

One illustration will serve to show how this continuous 
development affected the elementary school. 

One of the most important subjects, in the school of the 
later Talmudic period particularly, was the liturgy 
prayers and benedictions. This must have claimed a large 
part of the time and energy of both teachers and pupils. 
It was all the more difficult because it was as yet in a fluid 
state and had, in addition, to be taught by heart. Teachers 
were expected to have an expert knowledge of the subject, 
and sometimes even well-known rabbis could not hold their 
own against them. 

But this subject was hardly even in existence during the 
time of the early scribes in the Persian Age. And this 
would be true, although not always to the same extent, of 
many of the other subjects of study in the Jewish school. 

2. There is another matter which requires to be cleared 


up before we can undertake a profitable study of our 

A considerable portion of the material at our disposal 
consists of rabbinical sayings or reflections on education. 
Now these cannot always be taken as a record of existing 
conditions, or as regulations intended for immediate en- 
forcement. Often they represent the aspirations of intel- 
lectual leaders, "pious wishes" which could scarcely be 
translated into practice. Sometimes indeed they are in the 
nature of aims and ideals. But here again their main value 
is in showing us what education still lacked, rather than 
what it had already achieved. For, as Dewey well reminds 
us, we do not usually emphasise things which do not re- 
quire emphasis. We tend rather to frame our aims on the 
basis of the defects and the needs of the contemporary 
situation. A critical examination of these sayings in the 
light of the known conditions of the time is therefore an 
essential requirement for a proper appreciation of their 
value. But writers on the subject have not always paid 
sufficient attention to this requirement, and so we some- 
times get a description of an ideal education system which 
has little relation to historic reality. 

One or two examples will suffice to illustrate the fore- 

Rabbi Akiba, the well-known spiritual leader of the 
early second century C.E., says : " When thou teachest 
thy son teach him in a well-corrected book." Now this 
is clearly in the nature of an advice, and all that can 
legitimately be inferred from it is that children in those 
times had to put up with all sorts of unreliable texts 
which, in view of the scarcity and costliness of books, was 
inevitable. This, indeed, is confirmed by the Talmud it- 
self, which finds it necessary to explain that the saying 
applies only to " a new lesson " an eloquent testimony to 
the existing situation! Yet we find a writer stating on the 



basis of this saying by Rabbi Akiba that according to the 
Talmud " textbooks must be without error/' (Jew Encyc., 
" Pedagogics.") 

The following is even more curious as an example of un- 
critical method. Rav, the famous founder of the Academy 
of Sura in the early third century C.E V is reported in the 
Talmud to have said to an elementary schoolmaster as fol- 
lows : " When you beat a child, beat him only with a shoe- 
strap." This quite clearly represents the individual view 
of an educational reformer who endeavoured to introduce 
what he considered to be a desirable method of discipline. 
One would be justified to conclude from this that in prac- 
tice teachers were in the habit of using on their pupils some- 
thing much more formidable than a shoe-strap. Nor would 
there be any difficulty in proving such a conclusion from 
Talmudic evidence, which all goes to show that Rav's well- 
meant advice remained merely a pious aspiration. Never- 
theless, one modern writer considers it a sufficient basis for 
his statement that " only in cases of persistent inattention 
might the teacher inflict punishment by means of a strap 
of reeds" (ibid.) 

As a final illustration we may quote the following from a 
modern book on education in ancient Israel. "... The 
ordinance of Gamala " the high priest who, according to 
a solitary tradition, was responsible for the introduction of 
elementary education in Palestine "required the com- 
munity to provide one teacher for twenty-five pupils or less; 
for any number over twenty-five and less than fifty, one 
teacher and one assistant; for fifty pupils, two teachers and 
two classes." (K H. Swift, " Educat. in Ancient Israel," 95.) 

Now for this statement, which credits Gamala with the 
introduction of such an elaborate and well-regulated system 
of organisation in Palestine of the first century C.E., there is 
absolutely no evidence from any source except the report 
of an attempted reform of this nature by a scholar who 


lived three hundred years later in Babylonia! The im- 
provements which the latter endeavoured to introduce in 
the fourth century are treated as if they had already been 
put in force in the first century. 

Examples of a similar kind could be greatly multiplied; 
and, as will be seen from the chapters dealing with the 
subject, the study of the curriculum suffered greatly from 
these uncritical methods. 

To sum up: in dealing with any Talmudic text and 
most of our material must be drawn from this source it 
is necessary first of all to try and determine the period to 
which it belongs, frequently a matter of great difficulty. 
After that it must be examined in the light of the known 
conditions of that time. This method has been followed 
throughout in our study of the history of the early Jewish 




1 P. Monroe, " A Text-book In the History of Education," New 
York, 1905. 

2 E. P. Cubberley, " The History of Education " and " Read- 
ings in the History of Education," Boston, 1920. 

3 William Boyd, " The History of Western Education/' London, 


I The school is mentioned only once in the New Testament, 
Acts 19. 9, where the reference is to a Greek school. 

- Baba Bathra 2O&, 2ia. 

3 Deuteronomy 6. 7, n. 19. 

4 Exodus 13. 8, 14. 

5 See, for instance, Exodus 10. 2 ; Joshua 4. 6, 22. 24 ; i Kings 
9. 6 ; Jeremiah 32. 39 ; Psalms 78. 5, 6 ; and elsewhere. 

6 See Bereshith Rabbah 84. 8; Berakhoth 40.; Sanhedrin 19 b. 

7 Deuteronomy 12. 12, 18, 16. n, 31. 12; i Samuel i. i; Jere- 
miah 9. 19. 

8 Jeremiah 7. 18. 

9 2 Kings 17. 28; Ezekiel 22. 26; Haggai 2. n ff. ; Zechariah 

7- 3- 

10 See, for example, Jeremiah 18. 18; Ezekiel 7. 26, 22. 26, 28; 

Micah 3. ii ; and many more. 

II nut" Genesis 18. 19; Joshua i. 7; "lilTn," "imn" 
Exodus 18. 16, 20; "min" Exodus 24. 12; Leviticus 10. n; 
Deuteronomy 17. 10, n, 24. 8; i Samuel 12. 23; i Kings 8. 36; 
a Kings 17. 28; and many more. " min " should be understood in 
the sense of giving practical guidance in concrete cases; compare 
the Talmudic " nfcnin miD." Only in modern Hebrew has " H11D " 
become the common word for " teacher " instead of the former 

" more frequently in Deuteronomy (17 times) than in 
any other book of the Bible, except the Psalms (13 times in 
Psalm 119). Also fairly often in Jeremiah (14 times). 

w R. T. Hereford, " The Pharisees/* p. 26. 

14 Note in this connection Ezekiel 8. i, 14. i, 20. i. We may see 
in these assemblies in the prophet's house an example of the meet- 
ings for instruction and prayer which gradually developed into the 
synagogue. But see Professor Zeitlin, Proc. American Academy 
/or Jewish Research, 1931, p. 69, " The Origin of the Synagogue," 



For the synagogue as a place of instruction, see Schuerer, " A His- 
tory of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ/' New Series, 
vol. 24, 53-55. 

15 Sopherim 18. 6; Aboth derabbi Nathan 18; Hagigah, 3*1. 
" JUD " Ezra, 8. 16; i Chronicles 25. 8; 2 Chronicles 35. 3. 

" Daniel n. 33, 12. 3; 2 Chronicles 30. 22. 
(common word for " teacher ") Psalms 94. 10, 119. 99. 
(universally accepted word for " pupil ") i Chronicles 25. 8. 

17 2 Chronicles 17. 7 Jf. ; Nehemiah 8. 8. 

18 76-67 B.C.E. But Ben-Sira already mentions the '* Beth-mid- 
rash " apparently a private ** academy " for youth. 

19 i Maccabees i. 14; 2 Maccabees 4. 9, 12. 

20 Shevuoth sa. 


1 " Legatio ad Caium," 16, 31; " Apion," i. 12. See also 
"Ant," IV.-VIII. 12. 

2 Cubberley, op. cit., 59. 

3 Philo was, of course, not a Palestinian, but an Alexandrian 

4 The term " Torah " here, as frequently elsewhere in rab- 
binical literature, does not mean just " the law " as it is so often 
translated. It covers the whole body of laws and traditions of 

5 The phrase in Deuteronomy n. 19, "Dfitf DmD?}" was read : 

" DfliXDflTDSl" instead of " D1JK-" Such methods of interpretation 
are common in the Talmud. 
* Isaiah 2. 3. 

7 Baba Bathra 21 a. 

8 The Hebrew word for children used in both passages, *' Tino- 
koth," covers a wide age range, and is applied in Talmudic litera- 
ture to little children as well as to young men like the word 
" Naar " in the Bible. An interesting example will be found in 
Yoma 23a. 

9 Yehudah, who died 299 C.E., and his teacher Rav, d. 247 c.E. 

10 " Hazzan," a kind of beadle and reader combined in the 
synagogue of those days. 

11 ** Historiyyah Yisreelith," vol. 3, 149; Jerusalem, 1923. 

12 See, for instance, Jewish En cyclop., article on " Pedagogics " ; 
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, " Education " ; Cheyene's Encyc. 
Bib., " Education "; F. H. Swift, " Education in Ancient Israel," 
p. 92; Monroe's Cyclop, of Education, article on " Jewish Educa- 
tion"; "A History of the Jewish People," Margolis and Marx, 
Philadelphia, 1921, p. 211. 

NOTES 249 

13 On Spartan education, see Boyd, op. tit*, 11-16; K. J. Free- 
man, " Schools of Hellas," chap, on Spartan education; Monroe, 
f - Text-book," 70-79; " Source-book," passage from Plutarch. 

14 It Is Interesting that a scholar of the third century C.E. was 
rather shocked when he heard his son repeat those blessings and 
told him to change the last one to : " Who has not made me a 

15 Berakhoth 47!?. 

16 Pesahim 1120.. 

17 Kiddushin 290 ; Rabbi Eleazar, Bekhoroth 33^ ; Abaye, Kid- 
dushin 486 ; Judah, the Prince, Abodah Zarah 52 b ; Joshua ben 
Levi, Horayoth 8a; Hiyya ben Abba, Kiddushin 3oa; see also the 
interesting passage in Aboth der. Nathan 8. 6. 

18 Kiddushin 310; Aboth 4. 6; Sanhedrin 19!?, 996. 

19 Sanhedrin 176; Sabbath 119??. 

20 Kethuboth 103?? ; Baba Mezi'a 856. 
31 Aboth 4. 25; Aboth der. Nathan 23. 


I References are numerous. See, for instance, Genesis 31. 15, 
34; Exodus 21. 7, 22. 15, 16; Deuteronomy 22. 29; Leviticus 19. 29. 

3 Leviticus 27. i ff. 

3 Compare also Genesis 19. 8. 

4 i Samuel 25. 41. 

fi Deuteronomy 5. 21 ; Exodus 20. 17. 

6 Jeremiah 6. 12, 8. 10. 

7 See, for instance, Deuteronomy 22. 13 ; Jeremiah 27. 6. This 
is the usual expression. Deuteronomy 24. i, 3 ; Jeremiah 3. i. 

* Exodus 20. 12; Deuteronomy 5. 16; Leviticus 19. 3; on the 
latter see Kiddushin 30. 

9 The queen-mother is usually mentioned by name in the stories 
of the Kings of Judah. 

10 Deborah, Hannah, Bath-sheba, Hulda and numerous others. 

II Exodus 15. 21 ; Judges 5. ; i Samuel 2. i ff. 
la Song of Songs 8. 6, 7. 

13 Ezekiel 24. i6ff. 

14 Malachi 2. 14 f. 

15 Isaiah 50. i ; Jeremiah 2. 2, 3. i f . Note the symbolical inter- 
pretation of the Song of Songs in later ages. 

w 2 Maccabees 7. ; 4 Maccabees 8. 16. 

ir In the Christian Gospels women occupy a prominent position. 
This will be referred to later, 

Deuteronomy 12. 12; Jeremiah 9. 19, 7. 18; Proverbs i. 8; 
see also Joel 3. i. 


19 Ecclesiastes 7. 26, 28; but see Barton, " International Critical 
Commentary," whose interpretation can hardly be reconciled with 
verses 28-29. 

20 See "Hellenistic Greeks," Mahaffy and Goligher, London, 
1928, p. 5. 

21 See " Short History of Women," John Langdon-Davies, 
London, 1928, pp. 150, 157. 

32 " Euripides and His Age," Gilbert Murray, p. 33 ; " The Greek 
Commonwealth," Alfred Zimmern, Oxford, 1924, p. 334; " The 
Greek Point of View," M. Hutton, p. 19. 

23 Ethics of the Fathers i. 5 ; Berakhoth 24*1. 

24 Baba Bathra 120.. 

25 Sukkah 38^; Menahoth 43 Z> ; G. H. Weiss, " Dor Dor Vedore- 
shav," vol. 2, 29. 

28 Sotah 2oa. 

27 Kiddushin 29. 30; Sotah, ibid. ; Yerushalmi, Sabbath, 6 i. 

28 Yoma 866 ; Kethuboth 59??. 

29 Niddah 45^, 486; Menahoth noa. 

30 Sabbath 33^ ; Kiddushin, ibid. ; Sotah, ibid, ; Erubin 271* ; see 
also Maimonides, " Yad," " Talmud Torah," i. i, 13 ; and Joseph., 
" Ant.," IV-VIII. 15. 

31 Sabbath 1500. 

32 Nazir 29^; Kiddushin, Sotah, ibid. 

33 Berakhoth vja. 

34 Sotah 22a; Abodah Zarah 38*7. 

35 Yevamoth ioo&, 107-109 ; Niddah 45a ; and elsewhere. 

36 Niddah 316 ; Baba Bathra i6b. 

3r For girls' education in Athens, see Freeman, " Schools of 
Hellas," 46-48; Monroe, *' Source Book," 36-39. 

38 i Timothy 2. 12; i Corinthians 14. 34, 35. 

39 See " Woman : Her Position and Influence in Ancient Greece 
and Rome, and among the Early Christians," James Donaldson, 
London, 1907, p. 182 ; " The Literary History of Early Christi- 
anity," Ch. T. Cruttwell, London, 1893, pp. 586-87. 

40 Among rabbinical sayings with a strong suggestion of the 
cynical and contemptuous attitude to the woman the following 
may be mentioned : Bereshith Rabbah 17, 18, 45 ; Kiddushin 49^ ; 
Nedarim 2ob; Sopherim 15. Numerous passages, scattered through- 
out rabbinical literature, show us the other side of the picture 
a humane, sympathetic and even respectful view of the woman as 
wife. The following may be noted : Yevamoth 62?? ; Gittin 9oa ; 
Sanhedrin 220, where we are told that " a man whose first wife 
has died it is as if the Holy Temple were destroyed in his time " ; 
and again : ' ' For every loss there is a compensation except for the 
death of a wife of one's youthful days," 

NOTES 251 


1 See note 13 in Chapter II. 

2 For a description of the Hellenistic cities in Palestine see A. 
Cherikover, " The Jews and the Greeks in the Hellenistic Period " 
(Hebrew, Tel-Aviv, 1930), pp. 129-161. 

3 How large the Jewish population of some of these towns was 
may be inferred from Josephus, " Wars," 2. 18. 

4 Klausner, op. cit., vol. 3, chap. ii. See also Pesikta 101, where 
even the Greek word for school " Ascola " is found. This, how- 
ever, as far as the writer is aware, is never applied in Talmudic 
literature to the Jewish school. 

5 Aboda Zara 156. 

* William Boyd, op. cit., pp. 64-65. 

T Nehemiah 8. 8. The question of the origin of the " disputa- 
tional " method will be referred to later. 

* Thus, for instance, Gudemann, article " Education " in Jew. 
Encyc. ; F. H. Swift, " Education in Ancient Israel " ; Klausner, 
op. tit. ; the writer on Jew. Educ. in Cyclop, and Diction, of 
Educat. ; and many others. 

9 Baba Bathra 2ia. 

10 Kiddushin 820. 

11 Baba Bathra 21. 

13 Taanith 240. 

18 Baba Bathra, ibid. 

14 Nedarim 37^; Bekhoroth 29^. 

15 Compare the attack of Socrates on teachers who attract pupils 
by low fees and big promises. 

18 This was also the practice in Rome according to the law in- 
stituted by Constantine. 

17 " Talmud Torah " i. 9; commentary on the Mishnah, 
Nedarim. 350-; and on Aboth 4. 7. 

18 From Bekhoroth 29x1 and Aboth der. Nathan 17, it would 
seem, however, that it was not entirely uncommon to charge fees 
for the teaching of the " Oral Law." 

" Or for teaching the intonation, Nedarim 37^. 

30 Bezah i6a. 

21 Baba Bathra, ibid. see also Makkoth i6& about the teacher 
who was removed for harshness towards his pupils; this incident 
is repeated three times in the Talmud. 

33 K. J. Freeman, op. tit., 58, 88-89. 

33 For a description of the organisation of the Jewish elementary 
school in more modern times, see the essay by A. M. Lipshitz, 



1 Sh. Zuri, ** Hamishpat Haziburi," Paris, 1931, 244. 

2 The Mishnah was compiled by Judah the Prince, 200 c.E. 

3 Berakhoth iya. Rav died 247 C.E. 

4 Baba Bathra 2ia. Raba died 352 C.E. 

5 Megillah 28b. Rav Ashi died 427 C.E. 

6 Gittin 66a. 

7 tf IBDfl TV V the " House of the Book "-that is, the Bible. 
But it may also mean " the house where children are instructed in 
letters," or literacy. This meaning of ""IDD," already found in 
Daniel and in an early Talmudic text, shows traces of Greek 
influence. This point will be referred to later. 

* Baba Kama 1146; "Rabbi" refers to Judah the Prince, 
compiler of the Mishnah, d. 220 C.E. " Priests' portion " = 

9 Semahoth 2. 4. Rabbi Tarphon was a contemporary of Rabbi 
Akiba, early second century C.E. 

10 Sukkah 290-. Rabbi Meir was a disciple of Rabbi Akiba. 

11 Baba Bathra, ibid, 

12 J. P. Mahaffy, " Old Greek Education," 49. 

13 Ezekiel n. 16; Sabbath 320.; Megillah 29^. 

14 Pesahim ioia; see Zuri, op. cit., 241 ff. 

15 Megillah 2ia. Rabban Gamaliel end of first, beginning of 
second century C.E. 

16 Sanhedrin 370. 

17 Aboth der. Nathan 6. 

18 Megillah, ibid. 

19 Kethuboth ma. 

20 Canticles Rabbah 6. 17. 
31 Megillah, ibid. 

33 Aboth der. Nathan 8. 

33 Sotah i7& ; Mikvaoth i. 10 ; and many other places. 

24 Gittin 58a. 

35 See chapter on Discipline. 

36 Mahaffy, ibid.; Freeman, op. cit., 83-4; on the manner of 
sitting see also Acts 22. 3, which compare with Aboth i. 4. 

37 Monroe, " Source Book," 32; Mahaffy, op. cit., 38. 

28 That is, the first and the last, the second and the second last 
letters, etc. This method of teaching was also used in the Hellen- 
istic school. 

39 Aboth der. Nathan 6 ; for an earlier version of this story see 
Kethuboth 62^. 

30 Semahoth 6. For the value of the various coins see article 
" Money " in Jewish Encyc., or other similar work of reference. 



A useful article will be found in the " Ozar Yisrael," article " Mat- 

31 Baba Kama ii5a from the fourth century; Gittin 350. On 
books in later times see S. Asaph in the u Reshumoth " I. 

33 Baba Mezi'a 2gb. 

33 Kethuboth 5oa. A good illustration of the scarcity of books 
and its effects on education will be found above, Chap. II, Sec. Ill, 
in the story of the argument between the two rabbis. 

34 Sopherim 3. 13. 

35 Sanhedrin iooa. 

86 According to N. Sokolow in the " Kethubim," London, the 
latter were collections of homiletic material. 
37 Gittin 60; Yadayim 3. 5 ; and elsewhere. 


1 Sukkah 420, ; Nedarim 32*1. 

2 Kethuboth 50^. 

3 Aboth 5. 24. 

4 See essay by A. M. Lipshitz, quoted above. 

5 Bereshith Rabbah 63. 

6 At the present time it is still the custom for the father to say 
this blessing when his son reaches the age of thirteen. 

7 Freeman, op. cit., 49; Mahaffy, 17; and his article in Monroe's 
Cyclop, of Educ. ; Monroe's " Source Book/' 32. 

8 See Baba Kama H4&, quoted above; Taanith 23^?. 

9 Pesahim 8b. 

10 Kiddushin 3oa. 

11 Famous codifier and philosopher of the twelfth century. 

12 Baba Bathra i2ib; Hagigah 12. It is not, however, certain 
that it applied to the elementary school. 

13 Jewish Encyc., article on " Pedagogics." 

14 Baba Bathra 8&. 

15 Freeman, op. dt., 69; Cubberley, op. cit., 24. 

16 Hagigah 156. 

17 Baba Bathra 8& ; Erubin 54a; Berakhoth 63^; Aboth 2. 6; 
Taanith 8a. 

18 Aboth 4, 26 ; Kiddushin 82^. 

19 Mahaffy, ibid., 47. 

20 Baba Bathra 210, and b; " Ozar Midrashim,'* Eizenstein, 513. 

21 Kethuboth 62a ; a combination of several offices by the teacher 
is quite common at the present time, especially in Western Euro- 
pean and American Jewish communities. 

23 Freeman, op. at., 81 ; Mahaffy, ibid. ; Monroe's Cyclop, of 
Education, article *' Roman Education." 


24 Martial, Epigrams, 9. 68. 

24 See, for example, article on " Pedagogics " Jew. Encyc. ; or 
article on Jew. Educ. in Monroe's Cyclop. 
3 * Horayoth 130,. 
3S Baba Bathra 8&. 

27 Compare Martial's Epigram, quoted above. 

28 Pesahim 49$ ; Sanhedrin 17?; ; but here the arrangement seems 
to be casual; " Ozar Midrashim," ibid. 


1 Levit. Rabb. 19 ; Aboth der. Nathan 14. 

2 Gittin 8oa; Abod. Zar. loa. 

3 Abod. Zar. 15^. 

4 Daniel i. 4; Sabbath 120. " Beth-hasepher, " the Hebrew 
word for "school," may be translated the " house of letters," or 
" literacy." 

5 Sanhed. 396. 

6 On the character of the Talmudic proposition see Professor 
Guttman, " Devir," 1-3, and Sh. Zuri, " Hamishpat Haziburi." 
Neither of them, however, mentions the possibility of a Hellenistic 
origin for the Talmudic method of disputation, nor even the likeli- 
hood that it owed something to Hellenistic influence. 

7 Sotah 49. 

* See, for instance, Genesis Rabb. 63 ; Ber. 3& ; and elsewhere. 
9 Menahoth 99!!?. 


1 See, for instance, Schuerer, " A History of the Jewish People 
in the Time of Jesus Christ," New Series, 24, p. 50; articles in 
Cheyne and Hastings; Swift, i&id., p. 96, and others. 

2 Lamentations Rabbah i. 5; for a description of the Roman 
manner of finger-reckoning, see Cubberley, op. eft., 65. 

3 See, for example, Judges 8. 14; Isaiah 10. 19, 29. n, 12, 18; 
Jeremiah 36. ; Nehemiah 6. 17 ; i Chronicles 2. 55 ; 2 Chronicles 

21. 12. 

4 Kethuboth 28a; Shevuoth 45a; Aboth 3. 20; Ohaloth n. 5; 
Mikvaoth 10. 10. 

5 References: Sanhedrin 956; B. Bathra 21, 13601, i68b ; 
Temurah 14. i; Hulin 90-; Erubin 130.; Gittin 24??; Canticles 
Rabb. 13. 

NOTES 255 


I See article " Aggada " in Hebrew Encyc., " Eshkol." 

3 For a comprehensive discussion of the synagogue readings see 
the essay by Professor A. Bilchler in the J.Q.R., vols. v., vi., 1893-4. 

3 Sabbath na, 13 j Sh. Zuri, ibid., 247-255. 

4 This suggests itself from Megillah 24^. 

5 Megillah 2oa; see, however, Schuerer, ibid., 79. 

6 Compare the oft-quoted text in Aboth : " At five, for Scripture ; 
at ten, for Mishnah ; at thirteen, for observance of commandments." 
The leaving age is discussed elsewhere, 

7 Megillah 24*1 ; Berakhoth 536 ; Gittin 580. ; Taanith 9. i ; Sanhe- 
drin in&. 

8 Kiddushin 300.. 

9 Menahoth 29*1 ; Berakhoth 62 b ; Sanhedrin 336 ; and often. 
10 Levit Rabb. 7. 

II Comp. A. M. Lipshitz, " Hatekufah " 7.' 

12 Pesahim 60- ; A. Biichler, ibid. 

13 Sotah30&. 

14 Pesahim ioga, nqb, n6a. 

15 Berakhoth 20. 

16 Ibid., Sukkah 38*1. 

17 Berakhoth 46^. 

18 Berakhoth 500, 

19 Ibid. 4 8a. 

20 Erubin 28b. 
31 Nazir 296. 

22 Hagigah loa ; Baba Mezl'a 33 ; Baba Kama 54. 

28 r Ab. Zarah 4*1. 

34 Baba MezPa 85^ ; Ab. Zarah 56^. 

Koheleth Rabb. 7. 

28 Kiddushin 290; Freeman, op. cit., 152. 


1 This chapter has been published in Hebrew, " Haolam, JJ 
London, 1933, in the author's translation. 

a Compare Hillel's saying, *' An ignorant person cannot be 
pious," with Herbart's, " The ignorant man cannot be virtuous." 
Dr. Rusk, in " The Doctrines of Great Educators," p. 215, renders 
this saying thus : " The callous or apathetic man that is, the man 
with blunted sensibility cannot be virtuous." 

3 " Outline of Educational Doctrine/' Lange, p. 40, 

4 Aboth i. 17, 3. 9. 


5 Ab. Zarah. ijb. 

6 Berakhoth iya. For his educational reforms see Baba Bathra 

7 " Science of Education," Felkin's translation, 220, 84. 

8 Kiddushin 20& ; B. Bathra i6a ; Ab. der. Nathan 16. 3. 

9 Cantic. Rabb. on i. 3. 

10 Felkin, ibid., 213-14. 

11 John Dewey, " Democracy and Education,'* n. 

12 R. Eliezer. Aboth 2. 8 ; Sukkah 280. 

13 See Boyd's " History of Western Education," 369. 

14 Leviticus 26. 44 ; Aboth 6. 2, 5, 6 ; Megillah 36 ; Berakhoth 8a ; 
Sanhedrin 590.; Sabbath ii9b. 

15 Quoted in Boyd's " History of West. Education," 360. 

16 Berakhoth 10 ; Niddah 3ob ; and elsewhere. 

17 Sanhedrin gib. 

18 " Emile," translated by Barbara Foxley, p. 56. 

19 Based on Genesis 8. 12. " Yezer " instinct, or native dis- 

20 Ab. der. Nathan 16. 2. 

21 Aboth 5. 21 ; see also Nazir 29?? and explanation of Rashi 

22 Stanley Hall, " Adolescence," vol. 2, chap, xiii., where there 
is also a section on Jewish confirmation. 

23 Hall, ibid., Preface; vol. 2, pp. 70, 303, 452 and elsewhere. 
Comp. W. James' " Varieties of Religious Experience," 199. 

24 J. W. Slaughter, " The Adolescent," 42. 

25 Olive A. Wheeler, " Youth," 165 ff. 

26 " Social Psychology," 439. 

27 Felkin, ibid., 72, 179. 

28 Quoted in Boyd's " Hist, of West Educ.," 291. 

29 Berakhoth 48a. The prophecy was handsomely fulfilled. 

30 Sukkah 42a; Arakhin 2b, 30,. 

31 On the Three Pilgrim Festivals Passover, Pentecost, Taber- 
nacles ; Hagigah 2&. 

32 Sukkah 28a. 


1 McLellan and Dewey, " Applied Psycho.," 95. 

2 Jeremiah 5. 22. 

3 Leviticus u. 29^., 41 jff. 

4 See, for instance, Klausner, " Harayon Hameshihi," Jeru- 
salem, 1927, 12. 

5 This subject is dealt with at some length in Chapter X and 
also in connection with the curriculum. 

NOTES 257 

6 " Instit. Orat.," Book II, chap. II. See also J. I. Baer, "Greek 
Theories on Elementary Cognition," 316, 

7 Erubin 54^; Taanith 8a; Yerushalmi Horayoth 3. 

8 Strack, H. L., " Introduction to the Talmud,'' 25. 

9 Ibid. 

10 On Aristotle's laws of association see Sir W. Hamilton, " Lec- 
tures on Metaphysics," vol. 2, Lectures 30-31 ; also J. I. Baer, 
op. cit. 

11 A discussion of this long-standing controversy will be found 
in Strack, ibid. 

12 Aboth 2. ii. 

13 Taanith ya; Kethuboth nib; Aboth i. 16; Berakhoth 276. 

14 See Chapter X, end of Section I. 

15 This subject Is dealt with at some length in Chapter V, Sec- 
tion III. 

16 Menahoth 29^. " The correct books of the house of the 
teacher." Another rendering is, however, possible, 

17 H. Wheeler Robinson, " Hebrew Psychology," in " The 
People and the Book," 354. 

18 On this subject see Baer, op. cit. 

19 Deuteronomy 4. 9 ; Isaiah 46. 8, 57. n ; Jeremiah 3. 16, 44. 21 ; 
Psalms 31. 13. 

20 Exodus 17. 14; Deuteronomy 25. 19; Jeremiah 17. i, 31. 32; 
Psalms 109. 14; Proverbs 3. 3, 6. 21, 7. 3. 

21 Erubin 54^ ; for Plato's views see Baer, ibid. 

22 " Instit. Orat.," ibid. Erubin 65; Nedarim 4ia; story of 
Judah I ; and elsewhere. In the Talmud generally the heart, but 
sometimes the brain, is considered the seat of intelligence; as to 
memory, the heart seemed to be regarded as its seat until post- 
Talmudic times. See " Khozari " 3-11. This was apparently also 
the view of Ibn-Ezra and others. 

23 Horayoth 136. 

24 Sir W. Hamilton, ibid. ; " Instit. Orat.," ibid. See also 
Ralston and Gage, " Present-day Psychology," 178 ff. 

** Aboth 3. 10. 


1 Abodah Zarah iga ; Sabbath 6$a. 

2 Sabbath, ibid. ; Sanhedrin 36^. 

3 Erubin 546 ; Yerushalmi, Berakhoth 5. i. See also Yevamoth 

4 Taanith ga ; Kethuboth 1031? ; Bab. Mezi'a 8$b referred to 

5 Bab. Bathra 2ib. 



6 Quoted In Freeman's "Schools of Hellas,' 1 93; Cubberley, 
' 'Readings," 5. 

7 Freeman, op. a., 94-5. 

8 H-erbart's " Minor Works " (Eckoff), pp. 34-6. 

9 Sir T. P. Nunn, " Education : Data and First Principles," 

10 Dewey, " School and Society," 51. On the question of mak- 
ing pupils learn verbatim proverbs, short poems, etc., see Bolton, 
" Everyday Psychology for Teachers," p. 210. Watson's " Be- 
haviourism," p. 41, contains an interesting passage bearing on 
this matter. Compare also Erubin 54b, the simile of the fig tree. 

11 Sanhedrin 99a. 

12 Erubin 54^7 ; Taanith 8a. 

13 Pesahim 720- ; Taanith Sa. 

14 For Quintilian see "Instit. Orator," Book I, chap. i. ; Book II, 
chap. IL ; for Plato and Aristotle, Baer, p. 311 ; Gomperz, " Greek 
Thinkers," vol. 4, p. 183. Modern views on the subject will be 
found in, among others, Sturt and Oakden, " Modern Psychology 
and Education," p. 178; Breitwieser, " Psychological Education," 
pp. 143-4; P^ar, " Remembering and Forgetting," p. 10; Burton, 
" Nature and Direction of Learning," pp. 146-150. 


1 Hulin 63??; Menahoth 436. 

2 G. H. Thomson, " Instinct and Intelligence," pp. 250-1 ; Rals- 
ton and Gage, ibid. ; but compare Collins and Drever, " Experi- 
mental Psychology," p. 232; and Charles Fox, "Educational 
Psychology," London, 1935, pp. 181-2. 

3 Erubin 54&; Abod. Zar. 190.; Leviticus Rab. 19; Deuter. Rab. 
8j Quintilian, ibid. 

4 " Dor dor Vedoreshav," vol. 2, p. 208* 

5 KIddushin 3oa. 

6 This subject is referred to in connection with the curriculum. 

7 See article " Mnemonics," Jew. Encyc. 

8 See chap, on the teaching of reading. 

9 " The Montessori Method," translated by 'Anne E. George, 
p. 307. There is a considerable literature on " silent reading "; a 
systematic exposition will be found in Klapper's *' Teaching Chil- 
dren to Read." 

10 Erubin 54^. According to the Talmud the number of limbs 
in the human body is 248. The custom of shaking to and fro dur- 
ing study is based in the " Mahzor Vitri " on Exodus 20. 18 j see 
S. Asaph, " Meqoroth," vol. i, p. 3. 

NOTES 259 

11 Maimonides, the " Code," " Talm. Tor.,' 1 3. 12. 

12 Genesis Rab. 65. See chap, on Discipline. 

13 W. H. D. Rouse in "The New Teaching," edit, by John 
Adams, p. 148. 

14 Psalms 113-118. 

15 Berakhoth 62a, and comment of Rashi there. 

16 See W. Wickes, "A Treatise on the Accentuation, " 1887, p. 8. 

17 Wickes, ibid. 

18 On subject of this chap., see also Sir John Stainer, " The 
Music of the Bible." 

19 Rosh Hashanah 33^. 

20 Protagoras/' Monroe's " Source Book," pp. 31-2. 

21 Freeman, " Schools of Hellas," 107-114; Cubberley, *' His- 
tory," p. 30. 

32 C. Brereton, " Modern Language Teaching," 44-47. 

23 Ab. Zarah iga. 

24 Sabbath 58*?. 

25 Sanhedrin, 1056. 

26 Commentary on the Mishnah, introduction to chap. 10, San- 


(This chapter has been published in Hebrew in the " Hachinuch^ 
New York, 1935, in the author's translation.) 

1 Monroe, " Hist, of Educat.," pp. 95-6. See also Freeman, 
op. cit., pp. 87-92. 

2 B. Bathra 2ia. 

3 See Jeremiah 25. 26, where " "]W " apparently stands for 
" !?M." Also 51. i, where " >Dp 37" might stand for < DHCO.'* 

4 " Schools of Hellas," ibid. 

5 Sabbath iO4a. 

6 Or " The Torah." It should be noted, however, that the 
Hebrew word usually means " to teach." The word is not used 
in the form which would give the meaning " to learn." 

7 The two middle letters of the Tetragrammaton. 

8 I.e., If you are charitable in the manner described above. 

9 A reference to the mystical interpretations of the Torah. 

10 Another version refers to the mnemonic signs used in study. 

11 See Rashi. The question should be: "Why is the back of 
the 4 Re ' turned towards the * Qof '?" The change was made 
out of a sense of reverence. 

12 Leaving an opening between it and the upper horizontal line 
of the letter. 

13 The word denoting " falsehood " is composed of three letters 


standing close to one another In the alphabet ; of the three letters 
which make up the word " truth," the first is found at the begin- 
ning of the alphabet; the second, if finals are counted, exactly in 
the middle ,* the third at the end. 

14 The middle letter of the world " falsehood " is a sub linear 
letter; the word, therefore, appears to stand on one leg; each of 
the three letters composing the word " truth " has more than one 

15 For instance, " Gimel, Daleth " = " gemol dallim"; " Peh " 
" Peh "; and particularly the first" Aleph "- " aleph." 

16 See, for instance, the article " Pedagogics," Jew. Encyclop. 

17 In modern times illustrations of an entirely different nature 
were used for the purpose of impressing upon the children's minds 
the shapes of the letters. For a delightful description of these, see 
Bialik's story, ' Saphiah." 

18 Dionys. Halic., quoted in Wilkins' " National Educat. in 
Greece," pp. 72-3. 

19 J. Welton, " Principles of Teaching," p. 115. 

20 The literature on the teaching of reading is very extensive. 
For a systematic exposition of the subject the reader is referred to 
E. B. Huey's " Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading," which 
also contains a chapter on the history of reading methods ; and to 
P. Klapper's " Teaching Children to Read." A useful chapter on 
reading will also be found in Rusk's " Experimental Education." 

21 Hastings' Diet of the Bible, article "Education." Ernest 
Renan had at least a glimpse of the difficulty of the problem. See 
" Life of Jesus," Everyman's, p. 47, 

32 "Makre," " Mashnee." 

21 Sukkah ^a. 

24 There are numerous passages in the Talmud dealing with the 
writing of scrolls. A good idea of the restrictions with which this 
was surrounded may be obtained from the tractate " Sopherim." 

2 * Taanith 276. The whole passage is important for this sub- 
ject. The period was the early part of the third century C.E. 

36 155, "iyi, -m, i;fr ny?, naii, 15*3, 13^, (ijn.) 

37 See, for instance, " Aboth derabbi Nathan," chapters 6 and 
15, the stories about Hillel and R. Akibah. 

28 Sabbath 1476. 

29 See Klapper, ibid. 

30 See, for instance, Erubin 536; Megillah 24b. 

31 to pa, flo, an, n, y. 

32 A fuller discussion of the subject will be found in the writer's 
" New Hebrew Primer," " Hayeled," Soncino Press, London, 
1933 ; 3rd edition, " Omanuth," Tel-Aviv, 1936. 

33 S. Pinsker : ** Introduction to the Babylonian System of Punc- 

NOTES 261 

tuation," Hebrew, 1863, P- 6 and elsewhere. Weiss, "Dor dor 
Vedoreshav," vol. 4, pp. 248-9. 
34 " Canticles Kabbah " 2. 4. 


1 For bibliography on the subject see various Encyclopaedias 
and Dictionaries, especially Jewish Encycl., article *' Targum " 
and " Ozar Israel," article of the same title. 

2 Megillah 240,. 

3 See on this subject Chapter X. 

4 See, for instance, i Chronicles 25. 8 ; and elsewhere. 

5 The last phrase may also be translated " and they (the people) 
understood the reading " instead of " and they caused to under- 
stand. ' * But both in the verse immediately before and in the verse 
immediately after, the verb is used in the sense of " causing to 
understand," " teaching," or " explaining," and is applied to the 

6 Kiddushin 4ga. 

7 Megillah 240,. 

8 See Chapter XII, Section II. 

9 " Instit. Orator.," Book I, chap. 5. 

10 Berakhoth 8a. 

11 For a full discussion of the subject of Direct Method and 
translation, with particular reference to the teaching of Hebrew, 
see the writer's Hebrew essay, " Haolam," London, November, 
1933 ; also his article in the Jewish Review, 7, 1934 ; see also intro- 
ductions to the writer's textbooks, " Hayeled " and " Hanaar," 
Tel-Aviv, 1935. 

13 Quoted in " Modernism in Language Teaching," H. E. Moore, 
p. 13. 

The literature on language teaching is very extensive. Harold 
Palmer's books may be mentioned particularly. 


1 Comenius, " The Great Didactic," translated by M. W. Keat- 
inge, pp. 249-52. 
* Ibid. 
s Kallah Rab., chap. 2. 

4 " Ethics of the Fathers," 6. 4. 

5 Ibid., i, 4. 

6 " The Mimes and Fragments of Herondas," Walter Headlam, 

p. 113- 


7 See, for instance, the article on " Law and Justice ** In the 
Encyc. Biblica, Cheyne and Black. 

8 Exodus 21. 23 ff. ; Leviticus 24. 19, 20; Deuteronomy 19. 21. 

9 Deuteronomy 13. 6, 12; 17. 7, 12, 13; 19. 13, 19, 20; 21. 21; 
24, 7. 

10 Deuteronomy 8. 16. 

11 k< The Mimes and Fragments of Herondas," p. 115. 
13 Makkoth 22&. 

13 B. Bathra 210, 

11 See, for instance, article on " Pedagogics " in Jew. Encyc. 

15 Makkoth, ibid. 

16 Sukkah zga. 

17 Semahot 8. 

18 " Sources for the History of Education from the Middle Ages 
to Modern Times," S. Asaph (Hebrew), p. 270, 

19 Martial, " Epigrams," Book IX, 68, quoted in Cubberley's 
" Readings in the History of Education," p. 36. 

30 B. Bathra, ibid. 

31 Arakhin i6&. 

22 Menahoth 7^. 

23 William Boyd, " Hist, of West. Educat," pp. 79-80. 
34 Kethuboth 960. 

15 Hulin io7&. 

26 Makkoth i6b ; Gitdn 36; Bekhoroth 460. This explanation of 
die '* transgression " is found only in the last-mentioned place; 
in the two other places the same commentator, Rashi, merely says 
that he beat the children too severely. 

27 Numbers Rabbah, chap. 12. 

28 Taanith 24^. This passage is given also by L. Gr. in his 
article on " Pedagogics " in the Jew. Encycl., but it is difficult to 
see what basis there is for his rendering. 


1 tl History of Hebrew Civilisation," 194. 
3 Pesahim n8a. 

3 Genesis 49. 24; Isaiah 40. n; Jeremiah 31. 9; Psalms 23. i, 
80. 2 ; and many others. 

4 Exodus 31. 1-6; see also i Kings 7. 14; Jeremiah 10. 9; 
i Chronicles 22. 15 ; 2 Chronicles 2. 12. 

5 See, for instance, Proverbs 10. 5, 26; 12. n, 24; 13. 4; 15. 19; 
and often ; Psalm 128. 2. 

6 See, for example, Hosea 12. 8. 

7 Compare Micah 6. 8. 

NOTES 263 

8 See G. Glotz, "Ancient Greece at Work," 321; also Cub- 
berley, " History of Education," 20. 

9 Monroe, " Source Book of the History of Education, Greek 
and Roman Period," 21. 

ia Freeman, " Schools of Hellas," 43. 

11 Glotz, ibid. 

12 See, on this subject, Dewey, " Democracy and Education," 
294 if- 

12 Charles' edition, 38. 24-39. 3 1 - F- H. Swift, in " Education 
in Ancient Israel," 82, sees in this passage " the most complete 
description of the ideal scribe that has descended to us from that 

14 See Cheyne and Black, Encyclopaedia BIblica, article " Edu- 
cation." For a general discussion of Hellenistic influence on 
Ben-Sira see Introduction to Ben-Sira in Charles' edition of 
the Apocrypha; article " Sirach " in Jew. Encyc. ; '* Books of the 
Apocrypha," by W. O. E. Oesterley. One of the latest writers on 
Ben-Sira, Dr. Cherikover, in his Hebrew book, " Hayehudim 
vehayevanim," has nothing to say on the subfect. It is instructive 
to compare the reactions of Jeremiah (18) and Ben-Sira respectively 
to the potter and his craft. 

15 Aristotle, " Politics," Book VIII, chap. 2, Ellis' translation. 

16 See on this subject Franz Delitzsch, " Jewish Artisan Life in 
the Time of Jesus," 1902. 


1 Kiddushin 2901. Compare Ephesians 4. 28 : " Let him that 
stole steal no more : but rather let him labour, working with his 
hands the thing that is good, that he may have to give to him 
that hath need." 

2 Baba Mezi'a 83**. 

3 Baba Kama ii6b; Hulin 54^. 

4 Ber. lya. 

6 Ab. der. Nathan n; Nedarim 496; Baba Bathra noa; San- 
hedrin 29*1; Aboth 2. 2; Ber. 8a. 

6 Fr. Paulsen, " German Education Past and Present," 183, 


7 Traces of Hellenistic Influence may be found in this chapter 
too. Compare " No one is really a free man unless he is engaged 
in the study of the Torah " which is reminiscent of the Greek 
ideal of contemplative knowledge. 

8 Ber. 356. 

9 Kiddushin 82. The whole page is important for the subject 

under discussion. 
10 Ibid., yoa. 


11 Ibid., 82 ; and In other places. 

12 Gratz 3. 33; Sukkah 516 ; Megillah 260; Nazir 52a; Yoma 

13 Pesahim io8a; Gittin 58a; Makkoth 8b ; Abodah Zarah 156. 
34 KIddushin 2ga. 

15 Exodus ii. 5; Joshua 9. 21, 23, 27; Judges 16, 21; Lamenta- 
tions 5. 13. On the hawker amongst the Greeks see Glotz, op. cil., 

16 Yevamoth 6%a. ' ^ 

17 Klddusm &2b. A whole list of despised occupations will be 
found there. 

18 Hagigah jb ; Kiddushin, ibid. 

19 Sanhedrin 58?? ; Yevamoth, ibid. 

20 Ber. 43 ib. 


1 Isaiah 49. 15 ; Sanhedrin io5a. 

2 Jeremiah 31. 19; Hosea u. i. 

3 Psalms 103. 13. 

4 2 Samuel 12. 16; 19. i. 

5 Genesis 21. 16 ; 2 Kings 4. 20. 

6 Genesis 4. i, 30. 2 ; comp. Malachi 2. 15. 

7 Genesis 48. 9; Isaiah 8. 18; Psalms 127. 3; Job. i. 21. 

8 i Samuel 4. 21 ; Isaiah 7. 14, 8. 3 (62. 4) ; Hosea i. 6. 

9 Jeremiah 6. 26, 20. 15 ; Amos 8. 10 ; Zechariah, 12. 10. 

10 Genesis 19. 30 ff., 30. i; Numbers 27. 4; i Samuel i. n, 12. 

11 G. H. Payne, " The Child in Human Progress," 194, 198. 

12 Psalms 127. 4, 128. 3, 144. 12. 

13 Job 42. 13 ff. ; Zechariah 8. 5. 

14 Genesis 21. ; Exodus 2. ; Ezekiel 16. 4^. ; Psalms 27. 10. See 
also Eraser, " Folklore in the Old Testament," vol. 3, pp. 437-64. 

15 Jeremiah 14. 5,- Lamentations 2. u, 12, 19, 20; 4. 2ff. 

16 Genesis 22. ; Judges n. 34 ff. 

17 Deuteronomy 12. 31; i Kings 16. 34; 2 Kings 3. 27, 17. 31; 
Ezekiel 20. 26; Micah 6. 7. 

18 Isaiah 57. 5 ; Jeremiah 19., 7. 31 ; Ezekiel 16. 20, 21 ; 20. 26-31 ; 

23- 37- 

19 2 Kings 16. 3, 21* 6; 2 Chronicles 28. 3, 33. 6. 

20 W. B. Stevenson, " Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, " Guild text- 
books, 1920, p. i. 

21 Leviticus 26. 29; Deuteronomy 28. 53; 2 Kings 6. 26$,; 
Ezekiel 5. 10 ; Lamentations 2. 20, 4. 10. 

22 2 Kings, ibid.; Josephus, " Wars," 6. 3. 

23 2 Kings 8. 12; Isaiah 13. 16; Hosea 14. i; Psalms 137, 9, 



24 See Deuteronomy 7. 13, 28. 4, n, 17; also 2 Kings 4, i; 
Isaiah 50. i; Proverbs 19. 18; comp. Roman " Twelve Tablets" : 
" If a father sells his son three times, let the son then go free of 
the father." See Payne, ibid., 213, 215, 217, 246. 

25 See, however, Deuteronomy 21. iSff. 

26 Genesis 42. 37. 

27 Joshua 7. 25 ; 2 Samuel 21. 6, 9. 

28 Jeremiah 12, i, 2; 31. 28-29; Ezekiel 14. 12 ff. ; 18. ; 33. 12 ff. 

29 Sanhedrin 37^. 

30 See, for instance, Ohaloth 7. 6. 

31 G. H. Payne, ibid., 270. 

32 Makhshirim, 2. 7. 

33 Payne, ibid., 13. 

34 " Legacy of Greece," 329-345 ; Freeman, op. cit. ; John Adams, 
Encyc. for Relig. and Ethics, article " Greek Education"; but 
see C. Delisle Burns, " Greek Schools," 80, and Van Hook, 
" Greek Life and Thought," 83-87. 

35 Klausner, " Historiya," vol. 2, p. 187. 

36 Nedarim 380. 

37 Pesahim 68&. 

38 Aboth 2. 14. 

39 Ibid., 3. 18. 


1 The wounds his son would receive as a result of his evil ways. 

2 Ben Sira 30. 1-13. 

3 Lamentations 3. 27. 

4 i Samuel 3. 13 ; i Kings i. 6. 

3 See Genesis 31. 35; Exodus 20. 12; Leviticus 19. 3; Malachi 
i. 6. 

6 A favourite figure with Isaiah: i. 2, 3; 30. i; also Jeremiah 
4. 22; Deuteronomy 21. 18 ff. 

7 Deuteronomy 8. 5; 2 Samuel 7. 14; Proverbs 13. 24; 17. 10; 
22. 15; 23. 13, 14; 29. 15, 19; 27. 22. With regard to this latter, 
Toy makes an unconvincing distinction between " moral " and 
" intellectual " folly. 

8 Quoted in Wilkins' " Roman Education." 

9 See on this an interesting passage in J. B. Watson's " Be- 
haviourism," p. 41. 

10 Sotah 47a; Sanhedrin 1076. 

11 Kiddushin 80, and in numerous places in the Talmud. 
ia Sabbath 152*7. 

13 i Samuel 2. 19. 

14 Kelim, chap. 14, 26; Zebahim S&fc; Yerush^lmi, Sanhedrin 
io i ; Yoma 786. 


15 MIdrash, " Shoher Tov." 

16 Sabbath 58^ 

17 Gittln 57. 

18 Kelim, chap. 26; Bekhoroth 350.; Taarnth (Yer.) 3. 6. 

19 Bekhoroth 300.; Baba Mezi'a 6oa; Kethuboth ija. 

20 Midrash on Proverbs. 

21 Sabbath 1056. 

22 Berakhoth 32^; Hulin 84. 

23 Semahoth, chap. 2. 4. 
34 Ibid. 

25 Hulin 940;. 

26 Kiddushin 310.; Makkoth 8a; and elsewhere; Moed Qatan 

27 Sanhedrin 706; Nedarim 31^. 

28 Kiddushin, ibid. 

29 Kethuboth 5ia; Makkoth 8a. 

30 William M. Cooper, " A History of the Rod." 

31 Kiddushin 31. 

32 Ibid. 


1 Hagigah 6a. 

2 Erubin 46^, 71 &, Sob. 

2 Hagigah 3&; Sopherim 18. 5, 6. 

4 Sabbath 586. 

5 See Megillah 27^; also Sabbath n8a. 

6 See, for instance, the story about " Joseph who honoured the 
Sabbath," Sabbath uga. 

7 Rosh Hashanah 33a, 32^. Even on the Sabbath children 
would be allowed to practise it. 

8 The earliest age for fasting mentioned in the Talmud was 
eight (Yoma Ssa). But it is not unreasonable to suggest that 
children then, as now, would attempt to imitate their elders before 
that age. 

9 Sukkah 45a. 

10 Pesachim n6a. 

11 Berakhoth ija. 

12 Megillah 240. 

13 Ibid., 28fc. 

14 B. Bathra I2&. Of a curious " prophecy " of a little girl, 
see on same page. 

15 See Hulin 95 b, the story of R. Yohanan, whose habit it was 
apparently to decide actions in this manner. For other interest- 
ing incidents in connection with this practice, see Gittin 58^, the 
story of R. Joshua; Hagigah 150, and b, story of Elisha b. Abuiah ; 
Gittin 68a, story of R. Shesheth. 



AARON, 157 
Abaye, no 

Abraham, 60, 76, 183, 190, 193 
Absalom, 2 18 
Accents, biblical, 141 
Accuracy, 127 
Achan, 212 
Adam, 194 
Adolescence, 105-108 
Adonijah, 218 
zEsopian fables, 74 
Agriculture, 200 
Aha, Rabbi, 49 
Ahaz, 209 

Aids to memory, 137-144 
Aims of education, 100 
individualistic, 102-103 
social, 102-103, in 
conservative and creative, 

95-96, 113-118 
Akiba, Rabbi, 21, 31, 55, 190, 


Alexander the Great, u 
Alexandria, 39, 46, 170, 198 
Alphabet, teaching of, 55, 72, 79, 

86, 87, 138, 147-151 
Alphabetic method, 151 
Am Haarez (see Glossary), 20, 

21, 45, 94 
Ammi, Rabbi, 139 
Analytic method (reading), 152, 

I55-I5 6 
Antiochus, 28 
Apprenticeship, 198-199 
Arabic, xxix 

Aramaic, 127, 160, 162, 163 
Aristobulus, 215 
Aristobulus, Judan, n 
Aristotle, 121, 132, 190, 214 
Aristotelian laws of association, 

Arithmetic, 72, 78 

in Roman school, 79, 169 
Artisans' guilds, 198 

Ashi, Rabbi, 49 

Assi, Rabbi, 89 

" Assyrian " alphabet, n 

Athens, 4, 29, 33, 38, 46, 51, 56, 

62, 64, 65, 95, 170, 181, 185, 

Augustine, 175 

Babylonia, 9, 20, O i, 58, 72, 81, 
82, 85, 127, 151, 160, 191, 240, 

2 43 
Babylonian captivity, 9, 13, 209, 

211, 212 
Bacher, W., 89 
Ballard, P. B., 181 
Bar Kochba, 17, 21, 41, 52, 55, 

6 7 76, 91, 96, i95-i9 6 i J 97 

Bar Mizvah (see Glossary), 86, 


Basedow, 148 
Ben Azzai, 31 
Benedictions, 93 
Benjamin, son of Jacob, 211 
Ben-Sira, 141, 173, 187-189, 190, 

199, 217-218, 219, 240 
Bergson, H., 113 
Berthplet, A., 182 
Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir, 


Bethar, city of, 54, 236 
Bezaleel, 183 

Book of the Covenant, 171 
Books. See Scrolls 
Boyd, William, xxvi, 40-41 
Brevity, 134 
Buchler, A., 50 

Cantillation, 141-143 
Ceremonial, religious, 10, 109, 
117, 161, 169, 222-223, 227-230 
Chanting, 141-142 
Chaucer, 157 




Child : 

in earlier times, 6, 173, 203- 


parental love, 203-204 
as a gift from God, 205 
names, 205 
the son and the daughter, 


exposing, 207-208 
sacrifice, 208-209 
infanticide, 209-210 
in tribal warfare, 210 
as property of father, 203, 


acquisition of rights, 203, 


in later times, 214, 227-231 
in Talmudic literature, 220- 

in Hellenistic world, 206, 

208, 213 
at home, child, 217-227, 228- 


in earlier times, 217-219 
in Talmudic times, 220-227 
among other peoples, 219, 

toys, 221 
games, 222 
punishments, 224-225 
relation to parents, 226-227 
religious life, 227-231 
social life, 23 1 

Child-sacrifice, 208-209 

Childhood, in, 221 
memory in, 132-133 

Chronicles, book of, 136 

Clement of Alexandria, 33 

Comenius, 166, 167, 169 

Commerce, 199, 200 

Community, 203 

and individual, 214-216 

Compulsory education among 
Jews, 19-23 

Copernicus, 131 

Creative aim of education, 95-96 

Creeds, 145. See Glossary 

Cubberley, E. P., xxv 

Curriculum : 

in elementary school, 71-96, 
169, 239-243 

Curriculum (continued) : 
secular subjects, 72-77 
arithmetic, 78-79 
alphabet, 79, 86 
reading, 79, 145, 146-156 
writing, 80-83 
Bible, 86-91 
liturgy, 91-94 
" Oral Law, "94-96 
in Greek school, 72 

Daniel, book of, 68 

Daughter, the, 24, 31-32, 206- 


David, 6, 76, 183, 190, 218 
" Day of Atonement," 229-230 
Deborah, 28 

Despised trades, 199, 200 
Deuteronomy, book of, 4, 8, 58, 

122, 153, 171 

Dewey, John, 105, 131, 241 
Diaspora, 39, 46, 90 
Direct method, 115, 143 
Discipline, 166-177 

Comenius' views on, 166, 

i6 9 

in Jewish high school, 167- 

. l68 . 

in Jewish elementary school, 

169, 173-177 

in Greek school, 173, 174 
in other schools, 175 
in the home, 221, 223-226 
" Disputational " method, 12, 

40, 74 
Dosetai ben Jannai, 124 

f Early Christian education, xrvi 
Ecclesiastes, book of, 28-29, 38, 


Edom, 147 
Education, Jewish : 

in Bible times, 4-5, 7-8 
formal, 5, 7, 15, 60 
literary, for children, 6, 8, 59 
concept of, 8 
early terminology, 10 
beginnings, u, 12 
compulsory and universal, 

of girls, 28, 31-32 


Education, Jewish (continued) : 

of the poor, 45 

theory of, 99-111 

psychology of, 104-108 

practical training, 108-111, 
128, 144, 169, 222-223 

achievements of, xxviii-xxix 
Egypt, 117, 1 60, 211, 230 
Eleazar, Rabbi, 216 
Elementary school, Greek : 

closed to girls, 33 

organisation, 45-46, 51, 52 

internal arrangements, 54-55 

books, 56 

entrance and leaving age, 62 

school hours, 63 

holidays, 64 

the teacher, 66 

curriculum, 72 

writing, 82 

swimming, 95 

methods of study, 127-128 

music, 142-143 

reading, 146, 148, 151 

discipline, 173-174 
Elementary school, Jewish : 

in Hebrew Bible, 4 

in New Testament, 4 

public control, 4, 12, 44-45, 
65-66, 71 

rise of, 12, 13, 14-23, 40-41 

fees, 12, 43-44, 5 1 * 60, 62, 63 

closed to girls, 31-33 

Hellenistic influence, 38- 

4 1 

organisation, 42-47 
as private institution, 43-44? 

home of, 48-52, 95-96, 235- 


internal arrangements, 53 
equipment, 53-54 
books, 56-58 
entrance age, 60-6 1 
leaving age, 61-62 
school hours, 63 
holidays, 64 
the teacher, 65-68 
contrasted with Greek 

school, 66 
scope of studies, 71-73 


Elementary school, Jewish (con- 
tinued) : 

secular subjects, 73-77 
arithmetic, 78-79 
reading, 79, 147-156 
writing, 80-83 
Bible, 85, 86-89 
beginning with Leviticus, 


11 Oral Law," 94-95 
function of, 95-96 
place of memory, 120-121 
methods of study, 126-127 
translation, 127, 160-161, 

comparison with Festal ozzi, 

methods of memorisation, 


mnemonics, 137-138 

reading aloud, 140 

chanting, 141-142 

music, 142, 169 

expressive reading, 143 

place of interest, 144-145 

alphabet, 147-151 

general description, 168-169 
Elementary teacher : 

qualifications, 42 

full-time occupation, 44, 64 

economic position, 45, 51 

as public official, 51, 68 

in post-Talmudic times, 68 
Eli, 218 

Eliezer, Rabbi, 57 
Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi, 


Eliezer ben Jacob, Rabbi, 139 
English language, xxix, 156 
Entrance age : 

to elementary school, 60-6 1, 

to higher education, 61-62 

in Greek school, 62 
Erasmus, 225-226 
Esau, 5, 61 

Esther, book of, 57, 86, 88 
" Esthetic Revelation of the 

World," 100 

41 Ethics of the Fathers," 52, 61, 
72, 167, 196 


" Evil inclination," 106, 107, 108 
Exodus, book of, 5, 155, 235 
44 Experimental Psychology," 

Collins and Drever, 135 
Exposure of children, 207-208 
Expressive reading, 140, 143, 

Ezekiel, book of, 26, 27, 142, 172, 

207, 209, 212 
Ezra, 39, 40 

" Faculty " psychology, 113 
Family : 

development of, 6 
as social unit, 212 
Father, as teacher, 4, 10, 21-22, 
32, 42, 59-60, 66, 102, 192, 
225, 241 

Feats of memory, 124 
Fees : 

in elementary school, 13, 43- 

44, 51, 60, 62, 63 
in higher education, 43-44, 


Fichte, 196 

Flogging, i73- J 77> 218-219, 224- 

Gamaliel, Rabban, 52, 191 

Games, 221-222 

Genesis, book of, 58, 71, 86, 89, 

" Genius of language," 163- 


11 Good inclination," 106, 107 
" Grace after meals," 92-93, no 
Grammarians, Hebrew, 158 
" Great Assembly," 41 
" Greek " cities in Palestine, 38 
Greek language, n, 72-77, 143, 


" Greek wisdom," 73-77, 103 
Gymnasium, Greek, 12, 72 
Gymnastics, 72, 169 

Hadrian, 54 

Hagar, 204, 207 

" Haggadah " (for Passover), 92 

Hagiographa. See Writings 

Hall, Stanley G., 106, 107 


" Hallel " (see Glossary), 58, 91, 


Hanina, Rabbi, 22, 153 
Hanina Qara, Rabbi, 153 
Hannah, 206 
Hanukkah, feast of dedication, 


Hasmonean period, 18, 38 
Heart, in ancient Jewish psycho- 
logy, 121-123 

Hebrew language, xxix, 18, 59, 
60, 75, 86, 127, 151, 160, 
Greek influence on, 38-39, 

74, 80 

peculiarities of, 147, 156 
Heine, H., 175 

Hellenistic influence, n, 12, 29, 
3<>> 37-4i> 80, 189, 190, 192, 
Hellenistic period, 30, 38, 47, 

186, 189 
Herbart, 100, 101, 102, 104, 105, 

108, 129, 130 

Hereditary trades, 6, 198, 200 
Herod, 4, 28, 240 
Herondas, Mimes and Frag- 
ments of, 173, 224 
Higher education, n, 12 
fees, 43-44 
teacher's position, 43-44, 67- 


internal arrangements, 52-53 
starting age, 61 
studies, 85 

intelligence tests, no 
methods, 118-120, 125-126, 
131-132, 134-135, 136, 137, 

books, 119-120 
discipline, 167-168 
Hillel, 190, 216, 235, 240 
*' History of Hebrew Civilisa- 
tion," A. Bertholet, 182 
" History of Western Educa- 
tion," William Boyd, xxvi, 40 
Hiyya, Rabbi, 22, 49, 120 
Hiyya, son of Rav, 175 
Holidays : 

in Jewish school, 63-64, 169 
in Greek school, 65, 169 


Homer, 128 

Honi Hameaggel, 235-236 

Hosea, 26, 27 

" House of Study " (" Beth 
Hamidrash "), 6, 32, 49, 61, 
76, 93, 96, 148, 167, 235 

Huldah, 26 

Hyrcanus, 215 

" Ideal scribe," 187-188 
Iliad, 127 

Individual differences, 109, no 
Individual responsibility, 212-216 
Individualistic aim of education, 


Industrial revolution, xxviii 
Infanticide, 209-210 
Instincts, 101, 105, 106, 107-108, 

204, 205, 220 

In tellectuali stic tendency, m 
Intelligence age, 59, 93, 109-110 
Intelligence tests, 109-110 
Interest, 130-131, 144-145 
Isaac, 6, 76, 193, 208 
Isaiah, 39, 81, 88, 122, 142, 204 
Ishmael, Rabbi, 196, 197 

Jacob, 5, 6, 61, 76, 193, 211 
Jael, 28 

Jamnia, 116, 193 
Jephtha's daughter, 208 
Jeremiah, 6, 25, 39, 116, 122, 

2O9, 212 

Jerusalem, 9, n, 12, 16, 18, 22, 
33 > 3^? 46, 90,^ no, 170, 177, 

207, 210, 2l8, 222 

Joab, 147 

Job, book of, 55, 56, 88, 172, 

205, 206, 213 

bhanan ben Mathia, Rabbi, 193 

ohanan Hasandlar, Rabbi, 190 

bseph, 5, 6, 205, 211 

oseph, Rabbi, 227 
josephus, 14, 15, 19, 210 
Joshua, book of, 76, 148, 161 
"oshua ben Gamala, 16-17, 18, 

19/20, 23, 49, 61, 242 
Joshua ben Hananiah, Rabbi, 

190, 191 

Joshua ben Levi, Rabbi, 148 
Judah, Rabbi, 139 

Judges, book of, 24, 68 

Judith, 28 

11 Jus talionis," 171 

Kennedy, A. R. S., 152-154, 236 
Kethubim. See Writings 
Klausner, J., 17-19 
Knowledge and power, 114 

Labour and leisure, 184 
Lamentations, book of, 142, 207 
Language teaching, 159-160, 


Latin, > 72, 143, 175 
Learning and doing, 100, 108- 

iii, 184, 188 
Leaving age : 

in Jewish school, 61-62, 168 
in Greek school, 62-63 
Length of lesson : 

in higher education, 136 
in elementary school, 136-137 
Leviticus, book of, 58, 71, 86, 


In school, 89-91 

" Liberal " and professional edu- 
cation, 181, 184, 186, 190 
Life after death, belief in, 213, 


Liturgy, 10, 58, 65, 72, 82, 85, 
93, 141, 153, 222, 228, 230, 

in school, 91-94 
Locke, J., 109 
Lycurgus, 185 

Maccabean revolt, n, 12, 13, 72 
Mahaffy, J. P., 236 
Maimonides, 44, 63, 64, 137, 140, 

Manasseh, 209 
Manner of flogging, 174 
Manual work, attitude to, 181- 

amongst ancient Hebrews, 

182-184, 186^189 
in classical Greece, 184-186, 


in Ben-Sira, 187-189 


Manual work (continued) : 

in early Talmudk period, 

In later Talmudic period, 


in legal literature, 192-193 
in homiletical literature, 

I93' I 95 

eulogies of, 194-195 
other views, 195-198 
Mariamne, 28 

Marriage, 24, 25, 26, 27, 32-33 
Martial, 174 

McDougall, W., 107, 204 
Meir, Rabbi, 50, 82, 124, 139 
Memorisation, methods of, 131- 

133, 134-137 
Memory, 113-143, 163 

in modern education, 112- 


"pure" and "rote," 113, 

. "7 *% . 

in Talmudic times, 115-121, 

Quintilian on, 118, 123, 124, 

in the Bible, 121-123 

superstitions about, 124 

feats of, 124 

in childhood, 132-133 

aids to, 137-144 
Mental discipline, 147 
Messianic Utopias, 116-117 
Methods of teaching : 

Scripture, n, 41 

writing, 54-55 

modern, 115 

" Direct," 115, 143 

logical and psychological, 


reading, 145, 146-156 
alphabet, 147-151 
translation, 159-165 
Mishnah (see Glossary), 21, 22, 
23, 6i 7 2 94, 95, H9 126, 
127, 136, 137, 140, 141, 153, 
160, 200, 237 

Mishnaic period, 49, 51, 237 
Mnemonics, 137-138, 150 
Molech, 209 
Monroe, P M xxv, 146 

Montessori, M., 138 

Moses, 15, 52, 131, 157, 183, 190, 
207, 213 

Mother : 

as teacher, 6, 28 
social position of, 25-26 
her love of children, 204 

" Multiple stimulation," 134 

Music, 72, 142-143, 169, 190 

Nahman ben Isaac, Rabbi, 119 
Nehemiah, book of, 41, 161, 162 
" New Education," 114, 130- 


New Year, festival of, 229 
Noah, 5 

Numbers, book of, 58 
Nunn, Sir Percy T., 129, 130 

Obadiah, book of, 72 

Odyssey, 127 

" Oral Law," 12, 26, 31, 43, 49, 

67, 68, 76, 81, 82, 85, 115, 

125, 136, 137, 153 
in the elementary school, 94- 

methods of study, 118-120, 

125-126, I3i-i3 2 i34- I 35 
136, i37 i3 8 ~*4o 
" Outward " signs, 229 

Palestine, n, 14, 19, 58, 65, 81, 
127, 136, 151, 160, 182, 
196, 208 

modern, xxviii-xxix, 156 
Paradise story, 7, 182 
Parental "fear " and " honour," 

26, 226-227 

Parental love, 203, 204 
Passover, festival of, 5, 92, 109, 

223, 230 
Pedagogue : 

among Jews, 63 
among Greeks, 63 
Pentateuch, 22, 23, 41, 57, 71, 
72, 85, 86, 87, 88, 136, 
157, 163, 230 
in the school, 87-89, 136 
Pentecost, festival of, 64, 229 
Persian Empire, u 


Pestalozzi, 129-130, 151 
Pharisees, 17, 18, 20, 215, 240 
Philo, 14, 15, 19, 85 
Philosophy of education (in Ben- 

Sira), 188-189 
Phonetics, 156 
Phonic method (reading), 151- 


Pinsker, S., 157 
Plato, 121, 122, 132, 142, 214 
Plutarch, 185 
Poetry, biblical, 140-141 
Pompey, 215 

Popular education, Jewish : 
rise of, 3-13 
Hellenistic influence on, 37- 

Practical religious training, 6, 

10, 15, 59-6o, 92, 93, 108-111, 
128, 144, 169, 222-223, 2 4 
Priests : 

as teachers, 8 

contrasted witli prophets, 9 
Principles of organisation : 

of Jewish school, 41-47 

of Greek school, 45-46 
Project method, 92, 115 
Prominent women, 26, 28 
Prophecy, 9, 172 
Prophets, 117, 184, 189, 205, 209, 


as teachers, 8 
contrasted with priests, 9 
books of, 71, 72, 85, 87, 88 
in the school, 87-88, 94 
Proverbs, book of, 27, 56, 88, 

119, 122, 173, 218, 219 
Psalms, 56, 57, 58, 88, 91, 92, 

109, 122, 136, 144, 157, 207 
Psychology : 

Herbartian, 104-105 
Jewish, 104-108, 121-124 
" Faculty " psychology, 113 
Punishment, theories of, 170-173 
retributive, 171 
preventive, 171, 225 
reformative, 172, 173 
as a test of character, 172, 


as intellectual stimulus, 175, 

Punishment (continued) : 

holiday from, 176-177 

of children, 224-225 
* 4 Pure " knowledge, 184 

Quintilian, 118, 123, 124, 132, 
i35> 164, 173 

Raba, 49, 100 

Rabbah, no 

Rabbi (Judah I), 49, 136, 200 

Rachel, 206 

Rashi (see Glossary), 235, 236 

Rav, 49, 64, 81, 126, 144, 173, 

177, 200, 242 
Rav's rule, 144-145 
Reading, the teaching of, 15, 79, 

145, 146-156 
Reading aloud, 138-140 
Reformation, xxviii 
Religious ceremonial, 10, 106, 

108, 109, 117, 161, 169, 222- 

223, 227-230 
Religious training, 6, 10, 15, 28, 

59-60, 92, 93, 108-111, 128, 

130, 144, 169, 222-223, 240 
Renaissance, xxviii 
Reuben, 211 

Revival of Hebrew, xxix 
Rewards and punishments, 144, 

145, 167, 169, 170, 173-177 
Rhetorical school, Greek, 12, 74 
Roman education, xxviii, 15, 66, 

Roman wars, 10, 13, 17, 19, 30- 

3 1 * 4i, 75-76, 91, 102-103 
Rome, 15, 66, 170, 218 
Rouse, W. H. D., 143 
Rousseau, 105, 106, 130, 133, 151 

Sabbath, the, 10, 32, 44, 64, 74, 
85, 86, 91, 106, 109, 192, 221, 
222, 229, 231, 237 

Sadducees, 215 

Salome Alexandra, 12, 16, 28 

Samaria, 210 

Samuel, Rabbi, 139, 176 

Samuel ben Shilath, Rabbi and 
elementary teacher, 68 

Sanctity of life, 213 

Sarah, 26 



Saul, 183, 212 

School for adults (Synagogue), 

10, 85, 151 
School hours : 

in Jewish school, 63, 169 
in Greek school, 64, 169 
Schools for youths, 11-12, 13, 17 
Scribes, 40, 82, 83 
Scripture readings : 

in the Synagogue, 85-86, 87, 

88, 91, 136, 159 
Scrolls, 53, 56-58, 118-121 
costliness of, 56 
writing of, 56, 82 
scarcity of, 57 
reverence for, 57 
special scrolls for children, 
53, 58, 71, 86, 87, 91, 168, 

Self-activity of pupil, 119-120 
Sennacherib, 81 
Septuagint, 39, 160 
Shammai, no, 235 
Shem, 5 
Shema (see Glossary), 58, 60, 92, 


Shesheth, Rabbi, 215 
Shunem, " great woman " of, 


Silent reading, 138-139 
Simon ben Gamaliel, Rabbi, 75, 


Simon ben Shetah, 12, 15, 16, 18 
Simon ben Yohai, Rabbi, 196, 197 
Singing, 140-141 
Slaughter, J. W., 107 
Social aim of education, 102-103, 


Social ideals, 214-216 
Socrates, 21, 46, 186 
Solomon, 193 
Son, the, 205-207 
Song of Moses, 141 
Song of Songs, 53, 142 
" Sons of the prophets, " 8 
Soul, the, 105 

Spartan education, 20, 37-38, 93 
Special scrolls for children, 53, 

58, 71, 86, 87, 91, 168, 241 
Spelling, teaching of, 148, 156 
Stevenson * R. L., 165 

Stevenson, W. B., 209 
Strack, H, L., 118 
Superstitions about memory, 


Swift, F. H., 242 
Swimming, 76 
Synagogue : 

rise of, 9-10, 13 

as school for adults, 10, 85, 


as means of indirect educa- 
tion for children, 10, 109, 
117, 130, 229, 230-231 

as home of elementary 
school, 18, 19, 32, 40, 48- 
52, 54, 60, 66, 71, 95-96, 
144, 168, 221, 235-238 

as " people's house," 51, 82, 
90, 236, 240 

services, 57, 58, 85, 93, 141, 

222, 228, 230 

scriptural readings, 85-86, 

87, 88, 136, 159, 161-164 
Synhedrion (see Glossary), 52 
Synthetic method (reading), 152 
Syriac, 75 

Tabernacles, festival of, no, 
161, 230 

Talmud, the, xxvi, xxvii, 12, 15, 
59, 61, 71, 72, 81/94, 95, 118, 
120, 122, 124, 126, 127, 137, 
139, 171, 176, 192, 199, 215, 

22O, 221, 222 

Talmudic literature, 14, 15, 20, 
21, 31, 59, 76, 101, 118- 
120, 124, 136, 167, 204, 

the child in, 220-223 
Talmudic period, 239-240 
Tarphon, Rabbi, 50, 226 
Teacher : 

early names, 10, 162, 234 
qualifications, 42, 45, 65 
economic position, 45, 66 
as public official, 51, 68 
social status, 66-68 
in post-Talmudic times, 68 
importance of, for pupil, 

101-102, 120 
in Hellenistic school^ 66 


Teaching, in Bible times : 

practical, 7-8 

formal, 8 
"Tell me your verse," 93, 136, 


Ten Commandments, 25, 94 
Tertullian, 33 
" Text-book in the History of 

Education," P. Monroe, xxv 
Theories of punishment, 170-173 

of children, 224-225 
Theory and practice, 104, 108- 

Theory of education : 

Jewish, 99-111 

Herbartian, 100-102, 104- 

105, 108-109 

" Three R's," the, 78, 154 
Titus, 75, 210 
Tobit, book of, 220 
Torah, 6, 16, 18, 21, 22, 30, 

3i 32, 43, 44 52, 53> 55. 57> 
59, 60, 67, 71, 72, 75, 76, 91, 
101, 103-104, 108, i jo, in, 
116, 119, 131, 135, 139, 141, 
144, 145, 162, 167, 168, 192, 
193, i94 *95> *96> *97, 214, 
216, 225 
Toys, 221 
Trades : 

hereditary transmission, 6, 

198, 200 
" fine " and " menial," 197- 


specialisation, 198 
apprenticeship, 198-199 
despised, 199, 200 
Transfer of training, 147 
Translation, 159-165 

in school, 127, 160-161, 164- 


origin of, 159-160 
in Synagogue, 161-164 
modern views on, 163, 165 
Types of memory* 134-135 


Universal education among 
Jews, 19-23 

Victor, 165 

Virtue and knowledge, 184 
Vowel system, Hebrew, 65, 79, 
120, 121, 127, 137, 141, 147, 
152, 154, 155, 156-158, 169 

Weiss, I. H., 21, 157 
Wheeler, O. A., 107 
" Whole " and " part " method, 


Woman, 24-34 

in early Bible times, 24-27, 

as daughter, 24, 31-32, 206- 


as mother, 25-26 
as wife, 25, 26, 27, 32, 33 
in second temple times, 27-30 
in education, 28, 31-32, 42 

in post-temple times, 30-33, 


early marriage, 32-33 

in ancient Greece, 29, 33 

in early Christianity, 33-34 
Women, prominent : 

in early Bible times, 26 

in second temple times, 28 
Writing : 

in Bible times, 80 

in early Talmudic times, 80 

materials, 80 

in later Talmudic times, 81- 
83, 169 

of scrolls, 82 

Writings (Hagiographa), 71, 72, 
85-86, 88 

Ze'era, Rabbi, 93-94 
Zelophehad, 206 
Zimmern, A. .,214 
Zion, 16